Career Counselling with College and University Students

Most young people attend some form of post secondary studies.  Alberta has one of the lowest rates of attendance in Canada – even here, 71% attend some form of post-secondary education.  Not everyone will commence their studies right after high school; in fact about 16% will delay entering post-secondary education for up to 3 years.  Once in a program, 15% drop out before completing. Reasons vary, but not liking the program they are in, financial difficulties and wanting to work are the three most commonly cited for doing so.  Of those who stay 60% will graduate from a different program than they started. Almost 25% will try three or more programs. Even after having graduated from a post-secondary program large numbers will decide to go back for further education or training in order to improve their chances of getting a job.

The fact that so many students delay, change, leave and extend their post secondary programs is not problematic in and of itself.  People in this age group are supposed to explore and discover where their passions and talents lie. Changes are problematic when they are erratic, impulsive, motivated by getting out rather than moving toward.  Furthermore, when the changes significantly delay graduation there can be significant financial implications due to the deferral of potential employment income and the accumulation of significant student debt.

The transition from post-secondary to work can also pose a problem for some.  For students who are not graduating from applied or professional undergraduate programs, the kind of work they seek is not so well defined as those who graduate from nursing, engineering, or welding.  For some its very difficult to know where to start a career search as their general arts or science degree has not provided them with specific employment training; their career path is not clearly laid out.

Career counselling with this group of people has to be responsive to their immediate needs.  It may be helping them find a major area of study that is more likely going to suit their interests and abilities.  Assistance sorting out what wasn’t working for them is sometimes helpful.  Helping regain confidence can also be useful for some.  For some, it is a matter of figuring out what will come next; helping them find information about possible careers or information about themselves so they have a clearer sense of the kind of work they might enjoy and be successful at.  Career counselling will often involve the use of formal or informal tests and inventories.  These are generally most helpful for providing structure for the young person to think about him or herself. The inventories and aptitude tests are never used to tell someone what to do, they can, however, help identify strengths and liabilities as these play out in different occupational fields.