Remember when you were a teenager? And that time when it seemed like everybody and their aunt were asking, “So, what are you doing after you graduate?”

No matter how long ago that was, you probably remember the answers swirling through your head . . .

There were so many paths to consider! College? A job? A year abroad? And if you did know what you wanted to do, maybe the responses you got were sometimes less than supportive.

While life may have changed in many ways since your first steps into adulthood, today’s teenagers often hear the same kinds of questions—and may be experiencing the same feelings of uncertainty.

Homeschooling in high school doesn’t mean just getting our teens to graduation (though that’s half the battle!). A big part of our task as homeschool mamas is helping our students figure out what to do next after high school—and then using the high school years to prepare them for that step.

Observe, ask questions, and listen . . . a lot!

As a parent, you’ve already seen how just noticing your child’s personality and preferences can help you choose the teaching style, curricula, and activities that allow them to shine. With your high schooler, you’ve got a beautiful and important opportunity to keep on paying attention—and include them in the process!

As your young adult matures, it helps to give them space to change, grow, and even surprise you with new interests and opinions. One way to do this is to make sure they have plenty of opportunities to try different activities, subjects, and social groups.

And another way is to have lots of casual conversations (all the time, anywhere!) with your teen—asking lots of questions, really listening to their answers, and sharing your own observations with each other. Together you can identify the things your teen values, the life they dream of having, and the topics they want to learn more about.

Plus, through all of this, you’re modeling healthy adult decision-making skills that they’ll be able to use in many other scenarios!

So here are some pretty common next-step options that many teens take right after graduating from high school. They might . . .

  • Attend college.
  • Enlist in the military or attend a military academy.
  • Dive into full-time work or a career.
  • Take some time off to travel, volunteer, and explore options.
  • And, of course, many young people create their own unique mix of these options!

Chances are, the earlier it is in your teen’s high school years, the less they know what they want to do afterward. But that just means you’ve got more time to figure out just what your student’s post-graduation steps should be—and you can even incorporate the exploration process into your teen’s education!

Consider a Career Aptitude Test

You and your teen may find that their aptitudes and preferences naturally become clear through daily life, learning, and conversation. But a lot of parents are excited to learn that there are some pretty great testing tools available to help teens discover and explore potential careers.

These tools—career aptitude tests—match your student’s interests, skills, abilities, personality traits, goals, and achievements with suitable career paths. After taking the test, your teen will receive a multipage report that

  • assesses personality traits,
  • summarizes what kind of things they find motivating,
  • lists skill sets, and
  • reports educational requirements for recommended careers.

Some of these career aptitude tests must be taken at testing centers, while others may be taken at home. But the tests are surprisingly affordable. Several test providers also offer a session with a career specialist. Although this option more than doubles the cost of the service, it may be helpful if you want specific, personalized guidance for your teen rather than general direction.

Grade 10 or 11 is a great time to invest in this type of testing to help your teen better understand their strengths and see how those can guide them to a vocation.

Here’s a sampling of some popular tests and providers:

Digging Deeper

As your teen discovers careers that could be a good fit, you can encourage them to dig deeper and take a closer look. A great next step could be for them to research each possible career, collecting and comparing key factors like these:

  • job description
  • work environment
  • entry-level positions
  • advancement capacity
  • geographical restrictions
  • potential earnings
  • projected growth

Another important question your teen might ask about each potential career is “What kind of training is required for this job?” Here are some follow-up questions your teen could investigate:

  • Is a college degree necessary?
  • How about postgraduate study?
  • Is certification or licensing required?
  • Will your student need accreditation from a training company, a professional organization, or the state?
  • What internship and apprenticeship opportunities are available?

So let’s face it. Your teen might not be crazy about researching potential careers on their own time!

However, you could design a semester-credit elective on career development so they can receive high school credit for this work! It’s not that hard and we walk you through it right here.

To get your teen started, you can point them to these rich sources of career info:

Job Shadowing

This is a great way to help your teen understand how the skills and work habits acquired during high school have a direct connection to successful employment after graduation. Job shadowing also gives teens a more realistic picture of a career—both its merits and its associated skill sets—and allows your student to observe and engage with professionals who have valuable skills and subject knowledge.

To find job shadowing opportunities, you can network with your friends, parents of your teen’s friends, church members, neighbors, work associates, and relatives. A personal connection with an employee, employer, or small business can also lead to opportunities. Some large corporations host career days, when teens can follow employees for a day to learn more about working in particular fields.

You may want to plan one job shadowing experience each year of high school so that your teen has exposure to several career fields. You can take advantage of your young adult’s free time during the summer months or a flexible homeschool schedule during the school year to schedule these experiences. If you are an HSLDA member, you can use our Job Shadowing Proposal Form attached below to propose a job shadowing experience.

Personalize your teen’s high school plan

As you and your teen gain insight into their post–high school path, you can modify the high school plan to include courses that will move your student in their chosen direction.

So if your teen has a creative, entrepreneurial bent, they could take electives like business math and principles of marketing. Or maybe your student wants to become a special education teacher (or a parent!)? They could study child development.

You can also select extracurricular activities to dovetail with your teen’s future goals—whether a future businessperson decides to run their own lawncare business during the summer, or a future doctor serves as a candy striper at the local hospital.

Where to Go Next

Now that you’ve begun exploring post–high school options with your teen, we recommend checking out the next part of this series, which outlines getting your student ready for college entrance.

(And even if it looks like your teen might not be attending college—but there’s still a chance they might—it’s a great idea to plan the high school years as though they will. That way, your high schooler will be fully prepared and have the most options available to them upon graduation.)

Is your teen is interested in joining the military? You can get an overview of two main military enlistment options in Part 3.