January 31, 2023
70. The Rocky Road to Choosing a College
Do you have a plan for how and where your kids are going to go to college? Beth Probst says college is way too expensive to just hope kids figure it out, so she helps them understand all their options, do self-assessment, and career exploration, and make sure that those that are headed to college are aiming in the right direction.
Here are some important moments with Beth from the podcast:
At 10:45 Beth talks about how “hope” is not a good strategy when heading to college.
At 14:34 Do we put too much pressure on where our kids go to college as opposed to finding the right situation that may fit them better?
At 20:37 Why are kids taking so many classes in school that they may never use in real life?
Here are some ways to follow Beth:
Here’s how you can follow the Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast:
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Thank you for joining me today on the Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. For any parent that wants their kids to go to college, you either know already how challenging it is to figure everything out, or if you have younger children, get ready. Because from middle school through high school, you are up against stiff competition for the top schools. It's a whole other debate whether we're putting too much pressure on children at a young age, but the fact is the playing field is competitive. Now imagine putting in all the work to get to college and your child realizes that they've been working in a direction that they now have no interest in going. My guest today is Beth Probst. Her business is about making sure kids are aiming towards a goal they actually are interested in. She says college is way too expensive to just hope kids figure it out. So she helps them understand all their options, do self assessment and career exploration and make sure that those that are headed to college are aiming in the right direction. I'm George Siegal and this is The Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week we introduce you to people who are working on real world problems and providing actual solutions. Tell Us How to Make it Better is partnering with The Readiness Lab the home for podcasts, webinars and training in the field of emergency and disaster services. Beth, thank you so much for joining me today.Beth Probst:
Thank you for having me. What a great topic and a great podcast that you've got. I love the whole concept of, of tapping into the idea of how to make things better all the way around.George Siegal:
I appreciate that and, and certainly what we're talking about when we get into this, people are gonna realize this is something they can certainly make better because it, it is a problem. Let's jump right into this. What is the problem you are working on, and tell us what you're doing to make it better.Beth Probst:
So, so I guess I describe the problem, um, is something we see all the time with teenagers and there's a, there's a great graphic that we use and it has this kiddo with their cap and gown on, um, high school graduation. And they have all these question marks above their head. They don't that, that's the problem is they don't know what's ahead. It's scary. And then they're making some really ginormous choices with um, I would say scant information, and that's not okay because as we know, we know as adults, we always do better when we have done some research and have some information and have some experiences that influence our decisions. But at the end of high school, so many kids are just thinking, you know, I'm, I'm gonna head toward college or I don't know what I wanna do. And there are of course, um, there's terrible evidence about the number of people that move through that process and end up in jobs that they're not happy with. I mean, there's this Gallup poll every year, and it always has these horrible numbers about the percentage of employees, um, in America that are, um, disengaged or unhappy in their work. So the problem is kids are leaving high school. They don't have a great plan or a rudder in the water and it leads them in a mystery location and they end up, um, perhaps doing work that they don't enjoy. And that's not good for all of us. That's not good for society. So we're out to fix that.George Siegal:
Now, isn't there a whole other side to that though? And, and, and I agree with everything you're saying, so I'm not saying this like I'm, I'm challenging you, but I tell my kids a lot of times hey, don't worry about it. You don't have to figure out your whole life right now. Yep. Um, a lot of people don't find themselves until they're in their twenties or thirties. They don't find that right away. So how do you avoid going too far and maybe cutting yourself off from things that, that you don't even know if you're interested in yet?Beth Probst:
So I think the going too far would look like, you know, a 17 year old putting their finger on exactly this thing that I wanna do, and that's ridiculous. That's, that's ridiculous. I think there's a middle ground, and that middle ground is, if I have a sound understanding of who I am, and I can articulate right now what some of my strengths are at 17, 16, 18 years old, what some of my interests are, although interests, of course, change over time. That knowledge will let me make a better decision as I move toward college. I mean, the reality of co, if I'm heading toward college, if I'm heading toward college, the reality is that they have to pick a major at some point and they have to take and pass all the classes in that major. So it is unavoidable that they do actually have to pick and touch something and be engaged in that something. I am not a believer that anyone should put their finger right on exactly what they wanna do because they're going to continue to grow and morph and change through those, through those years of college, through those early twenties. But I want them to have a better sense of where they're heading. You know, if, if we consider the whole, the whole world of, of, of careers as a spectrum, You know, like a rainbow. Um, then I want them to be able to eliminate some areas and be able to hone in on a segment or a chunk because they've done some research and had some experience that lets them know that's, that's my section where I'm heading.George Siegal:
And then we hear stories sometimes of parents that discourage their kids from things they might want to do or a teacher of kids. I've read stories where kids have said, yeah, my teacher said I would never be able to be a doctor. And then this person goes on to be a brain surgeon or something. Yeah. So, um, there's a whole other side to that. If you, if you can really steer a kid away from something, they might be good at.Beth Probst:
Yes. And that would be, um, discouraging. And that, I mean, that exists and that happens, you know, we have stories of, of, you know, a teacher or a counselor who might have said something along the way or, um, or a parent. Uh, and I, I think, you know, that's, that's our responsibility to encourage and to stimulate and to guide and to provide, um, the resources that let somebody move with confidence toward the things that they that they are interested in doing. That's, it's, it's not our job to, to poo poo someone's ideas. But I think sometimes, you know, there's, there's a lot of kids today who wanna be social media influencers. Yeah. And. and I love that. I think that's an awesome idea. And, and the reason why they find that interesting is because they see that around them. But, but if they would take some time, I, I think they should take some time in that example and research really how that person came to be a social media influencer. You know, how much of that was luck versus, you know, skill and determination and those kinds things, those honest conversations with a, with a teenager can let them get to that spot where they're crafting their path towards something that, um, is, is, is realistic, um, in line with their strengths and their interests and with their educational goals. So I, I'm, I'm just a, a big realist person and I want, I want everyone to see the whole, um, range of options that are available to, to each student.George Siegal:
I think people like the Kardashians and, and other people that have no obvious talent, but they're famous for being famous, I think have really caused a problem for children. I know when I was younger, I wanted to be a professional athlete till I realized I wasn't any good at sports. Um, and but that's different because you can see that when you see these people that are successful online. If you point towards that, I try to tell my kids, Well, you can't control what people like on the internet. You can't control. That's right. I a, a story that that's famous for me is I was trying to market something and I couldn't get maybe more than 15 or 20 clicks on it. And then some overweight kid with acne lip synced a song and got over a million hits and was on the Today Show the next day. Made me wanna pull my hair out.Beth Probst:
Yep. It's frustrating, but, but I think when kids, again, when we have those honest conversations with them about how that person got to that spot, then it gets their wheels rolling. I mean, they, they ultimately, every teenager we talk to, Wants to have a job that they enjoy that plays to their strengths. And, and the big problem, George, is that they have a limited view of real world career options. And so that, that I, we, we actually used the phrase with kids. I, I tested it out on some students, uh, that I was speaking to a couple weeks ago. I wanted to make sure they were okay with me saying this, and they thought about it and they're like, yep, yep. We're okay with that. I, I refer to them as career illiterate. I said, I, I really think you're pretty much career illiterate. And, and they, they were semi, you know, not sure that was okay, but then they were okay. And I, I think that's the problem, George, with that, with that little bit of, of the snip of what it is to be a doctor. Or a nurse or a dentist, because we engage with them. You know, while we're in our, our youth, um, we see social media influencers. Uh, for a while it was, uh, the CSI effect. Everybody wanted to be a crime scene investigator. Mm-hmm. , that's a little less prevalent right now. Um, we have a lot of sporty kids who end up injured. They end up going to see a physical therapist and they fall in love with physical therapy as the idea of a career. And, and it's not that it's a bad thing or not, right? It's just limited, and that's not okay. So kids have to fix that. We have to help them fix that by learning about the whole world of careers that are out there and how to actually take some actionable steps to move toward a career that could be a great fit for me as an individual. That's the key. That is not magically gonna happen. I wish I had a magic wand and, and kids would just, just ultimately be supplied with career knowledge and information and, and frankly, um, if we rely on the, the school where our kids go to, to be the one that teaches them that. I don't think that's a good plan. Um, that doesn't, uh, tend to pan out well if you are just hoping that that's gonna be covered in school. It's an action that families need to take together with their kids or with someone who helps them through that process.George Siegal:
And we could still align from my documentary film, The Last House Standing is Hope is not a strategy.Beth Probst:
And hope is totally not atra crossing our fingers. I say that same thing.George Siegal:
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And, and another hope is not a strategy, um, is related to heading to college, right? If we, if, if a kiddo is just heading to college and we hope that they figure it out, you know, at 25 or $30,000 a year and they bop around from major to major to major, and that four year time in college turns into four and a half, five, five and a half, they graduate, they still don't have a great clue of what they wanna do. That's not a great strategy. They need to go with a better rudder in the water.George Siegal:
You gotta tell him. My dad told me the first four years were on him . And then I would have to pay for it myself if I hadn't figured out what I wanted to do. And, and, and that makes a lot of sense. Now, at what age should you start thinking about this with your children? As we were talking about, I have a 15 year old and a 12 year old. Um, you know, they've expressed some things that they, like the 12 year old, more than the 15 year old. Mm-hmm. . At what age do you start hoping that or not hoping wrong word, what age do you start directing them or working with them?Beth Probst:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So real quick, back to your dad and then we'll talk about that age. I love your dad's statement and the thing that was different about when we went to college was that it cost a lot less than it cost today. So I think that's the thing. Um, he, he was honest and upfront with you and I appreciate that, but you also, if you went that fifth year, you would've been able to figure out a way to boot strap that financially. Today, um, the numbers are, are just so ginormous when we talk about, you know, on average around $25,000 for a state institution around $50,000 per year for a private institution, that's a lot of money. Um, and so that's, that's another big motivator for doing some things during, during those earlier years. So what age, you know, I would tell families whenever their kiddo is starting, I, I think kids really talk about jobs very early on, you know, we see 3, 4, 5 year olds and they'll, you know, see a, a firefighter or a police officer or a teacher and, and they'll say, I wanna be that. And we'll say, awesome. And, and you know, we'll buy some books about that or buy 'em a firefighter's hat, that kind of thing. Um, and as they get a little bit older, they get exposed to some different things in our conversations change a little bit. So I think the key is that we meet them where they are in their developmental cycle. So whether they're three or seven or 10, or 12 or 15, we're helping them kind of talk about, um, their, the key is to help them talk about what's inside of them, right? Your strengths, your struggles, your values, your preferences, your interests, and how those can align with or don't align. That's a fun conversation to have too, to have to have a kid who, you know, just faints every time, you know there's any sight of blood. And to, to be able to say, you know, I think it would not be good for you to be responsible for seeing blood every day. So let's eliminate some of those cuz that's not a strength for you. So those are actually, they're fun conversations to have with our kids to help light that fire underneath them so that they do move toward work they will ultimately love. That is the goal.George Siegal:
Now, not to completely trash the education system, but why not? Because, uh, that that's what we like to do. Um, there's so much pressure on kids now with the way school is run and they're tested for all this bologna that's not gonna matter to them later in life, at what point do you, does it allow you to focus on, on things that you're interested in? Because I know a lot of kids are saying here in Florida to get into certain Florida schools, you have to have higher than a 4.0 gpa. I know. Um, you have to, it. It's almost, it's like a goal that's almost unachievable. So do kids have to understand that you can really go to any school? It doesn't matter. Yeah, the important thing is to go and to, to shoot for something.Beth Probst:
One of my favorite books is called Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be by Frank Bruni. It is a brilliant book and he talks about, um, all the reasons why schools that may never have been on your radar before, um, should be because, uh, to your point, you can be successful anywhere you go. 2000 four year institutions that are out there. I very much would, would argue and agree with him that it is more about what you do when you're there and less about where you go. But that's hard. That's a, that's a hard message to get through, especially in a competitive high school district where the students are vying for those spots and every, everything they do. on a daily basis inside high school feels like it's influencing their opportunity to get into that school or not. Um, I can't fix that. I, I can't fix that. Um, that, uh, often people call that the mania of the, the college application process. Um, it's just gotten way outta hand. You know, uh, admission rates are as low as single digits at some colleges, you know, so they're turning away nine out of 10 applicants. I mean, those kinds of numbers are so hard to stomach and fathom and it's really hard to pivot away from that and say, I'm not gonna go into, into that zone while I'm in high school. I'm gonna take action that's good for me. I'm gonna take that elective that lets me explore something that I find interesting. And I know that I'm not, you know, I'm not gonna get a, a GPA uptick. I, you know, it's not gonna be a weighted class if I just take that elective. But it's important to me to take that elective. That's, that's a hard argument. I, I don't have the magic for that. That really kind of comes from the support of the family helping that student know that it really isn't where they go. It's what they do when they get to that college.George Siegal:
It, it's tough because you, th a kid who maybe wants to go to law school or medical school thinks, well, if I don't get into Harvard or Yale, I have no chance. And I try to tell my kids, well, if you're running a race, that person may be getting a little headstart on you when you get outta college. Maybe it's a big headstart. , but that doesn't mean you're not gonna catch 'em a little bit down the road because you found yourself and went to a law school that you could actually get into and function in.Beth Probst:
Yep. Um, the, that's, that's the big misnomer is that, is that that education is, is quote unquote better. Um, I, if the, you know, so the, the, the more ginormous the reputation of the school, they'll lower the acceptance rate. Um, that must mean it's better. And, uh, there are, like I said, that I, I would, uh, refer people to the book. Uh, where you go is not who you'll be by Frank Bruny. And I would also ask that family to have some very realistic conversations about, um, you know, especially, oh, here's the one that's, that's a crazy, if an economically successful family who has a kiddo that applies to those schools, they might be thinking their kiddo would be in line for scholarship. For, um, merit scholarships at those, uh, prestigious universities, they don't work that way. So, so a family with a kiddo, uh, that, that's done very well, but they've also done very well economically. They could be looking at paying full freight, you know, $80,000 a year or, you know, plus or minus for those institutions. And, and it really begs the question, is it worth it? And that, and I can't answer that for every family. They have to answer that for themselves.George Siegal:
So gimme an example. Let's start, let's, we'll use my 15 year old son for an example. Why not? What should we be doing with him now? Um, I, I don't know that there's any one particular thing that he seems to like more than others other than maybe video games and, uh, and girls. So what would you, uh, what would you suggest a plan of action would be there?Beth Probst:
I would, um, help, I, I would start by helping him make a short list of some things that he does find interesting. And, you could look for those clues in how he spends his free time, uh, what kinds of classes he enjoys and why he enjoys them. And then I would look for some ways to let him try out those interests in a very non-committal, non-threatening. , you know, maybe it's a camp over the summer, maybe it's an elective. Um, maybe it's some kind of of self-study or thing. Something you do together with him to sort of, sort of try out that interest if it's tied to a career. Um, we love informational interviews. Those are brilliant. You know, to be able to, to sit with someone for 20 minutes and talk to them about what they do for a living, um, that student can, can, can hang up that zoom and say, and turn to mom or dad and say, oh my God, I could never do that. That would be horrible. I had no idea that job was like that, but what a good, um, Experience for him to start to just gather these little bits of, um, actionable things that he's doing that build his repertoire of knowledge about himself and his interests. And he can, he can, he can try some on and they won't fit, and he'll, he'll toss that off and set it aside. Um, another big word I would tell you to stuff in your pocket and, um, get it out and use it as a parent is the word because, so when he comes home and says, oh, I hate English, you know, we could be thinking, oh yeah, it's that character analysis. Or he had some, it had some plot thing, or he had to write something. We're thinking, we know what that means. Uhuh, get him to finish that sentence and and you can just toss, toss that softball back to him and say, Hey dude, you know, I get it. You hate English. You gotta finish the sentence for me. I hate English because, you know, and who, who knows what he's gonna say? But those little nuggets are gonna be out there in again, helping build that knowledge, that self knowledge, that repertoire, that's gonna help him make better decisions going forward.George Siegal:
So why do you think we have kids take classes like chemistry in high school or Algebra two or things like that, things that they quite possible will never use the rest of their lives.Beth Probst:
Because George, somebody banged a gavel in a state legislature and said, this is what we are gonna teach across the board in this general purpose education for all students in our public education system in America. We need everybody to come out of high school knowing these things. Um, many people argue of the value of much of what is taught and how it is taught. Um, I, I can't control that. I, I'm, I'm not, you know, if I was ever grand Poobah of, of education, um, things would change radically, but I can't change that. And so, so our kids, you know, they, they, I mean, maybe educate education policy is something that they get stimulated by this frustration that they decide to go out and do that for a living. Maybe they will do that, but, but the great thing is every state has a certain number of elective credit. That they also require students to take those elective credits are your golden ticket. You can take accounting, you can take woodworking, you can take a cooking class, you can take, you know, a best selling novels class. You can, you can take a career tech program, um, in engineering or in welding or in, you know, uh, animal science. , all of those things are at your fingertips in the elective world, and they're there on purpose. And I think a lot of kids overlook and ignore those and don't, um, don't put as much stock into them as I would argue that they could and should.George Siegal:
I would agree with you. I don't think they take those anywhere, um, near seriously enough. I mean, I tell my kids with those classes like chemistry, they're seeing your, it's your ability to show you know how to learn and you're gonna take things throughout school that you don't necessarily like, but it doesn't mean you can't know how to do it.Beth Probst:
But remember, but George, the word, because when they come home and they say, I don't like chemistry. I don't like chemistry because, you know, because...George Siegal:
I'm never gonna use it in the real world. That's the answer I would get.Beth Probst:
Perhaps. But you gotta, but, but they don't really know that. They don't do they know what job they're gonna do 10 years from now? Maybe they end up what they don't, they don't know. I. I would suggest they dig a little deeper, you know? Is it because it's more theoretical and like you can't see the molecules than, you know, are you more of a tangible person? And it's not, it's not tangible. Do you, is it too mathy? Is it, what is it that makes you not like it? I would dig. I would dig deeper, and I think that they ought to have some decent answers. They're living that every day.George Siegal:
Yeah. Do you think social media, and the different distractions that young people face now has an effect on how you do your job and how you focus them on thinking about the future when there's so many distractions in the present?Beth Probst:
I dunno, you know, we do, we do something pretty odd. Um, family stuff, not odd, but that's not the right word. It's a unique process when, when families contract with us and they, they ask us to do this process called guided self-assessment. There's no technology involved. There's no phone. We, we actually, George, on purpose, we sit if we can face-to-face physically, and if we can't face-to-face this way with a student and we do five one-on-one one-hour interviews, they're not holding a phone. They're not, are they influenced by things outside of that time that were together with them? Of course, does that alter what their thoughts are about themselves and, and jobs, to some extent. But when they are in a setting where they have to think about, talk about articulate their experiences, their values, their interests, with another person who is who, who's got a notebook and a pen, and they're writing and they're taking notes and they're engaged and they're probing and they're clarifying. There's no technology involved, there's no outside influence. It has to come from inside that child, and it really is a pretty cool gift to give for a parent, to give that child, to have that voice and that space to talk with someone who is truly interested and engaged in trying to help them take the next steps.George Siegal:
I would think that would be very valuable. I mean, I know classes they have at school where they're allowed to keep their phones. I mean, I can't even, I can't even wrap my head around that. You know? I like the fact when I go to a concert sometimes and they lock your phone in that case. Yeah. Yeah. And they don't unlock it until you leave. I mean, agree. I think we're so distracted.Beth Probst:
It's, it's semi uncomfortable at first. We just went to a concert like that recently. Um, it's semi uncomfortable because we're also, we always know where our phone is and we know all that, right? But it is also very freeing. And I think that, um, that, that, that freedom, you know, I, it, it's very interesting. I, there are totally pros and cons to the proliferation of technology being on our arm, being in our hands, being in glasses, being all around us. You know, we all freak out when we're scrolling through something and we were just talking to a friend about this brand of shoes and now it shows up in my feed. Right? Those kinds of things are a little bit freaky. They bother us. So I, I think with a teen, um, the key is to, to, to help them practice some opportunities to put that tech away and to be with themselves, be with their thinking, with their brain, what's right for me. And to do that together with someone that they trust that can kind of help, um, help them see the path ahead, whether that's a parent or a counselor or somebody like one of my teammates. Um, that's, that's a gift. I think that's very important to do for our kids.George Siegal:
So let's give people a takeaway here. I mean, you've given a lot of them, um, which I think are really interesting. What's the number one thing parents can start doing right now that can help them get a focus on this? Because it is a, a huge concern for so many parents.Beth Probst:
Talk to their kids about real world careers. And, and absolutely, um, use many, many of the real, uh, or of the amazing online resources that are out there. Occupational Outlook Handbook, um, O net online, um, career One Stop. There's a job, shadow.com. They're just getting your kids engaged to learn about real world careers, gets their wheels turning. And then, um, as a secondary, it would be helping them see and size up what special things are inside of them from especially strengths, struggles. Those are both very, very valuable to consider. Um, interest preferences, the values, those things again, are the little clues that are gonna help your child make better decisions about what comes after high school. And if you need help, get help from somebody, a trusted resource.George Siegal:
Yeah, that's, that's always the challenge is finding a, a trusted resource and it's certainly, uh, good to have found you. So how can people get in touch with you? How can they follow you on social media? I'm gonna put it all in the show notes, but what's the best way?Beth Probst:
Just best way is to hit our website. We have just a ton of free information that we post up there. Um, w it's gettingatthecore.com, so www dot getting the whole, we're getting the word at spelled out the core. Um, because, uh, it's about getting at your core, at who you are at the, the core of each individual getting at the core .com.George Siegal:
Beth, thank you so much for coming on today. You've given me a lot to think about. I mean, I know I got a lot to work on with my kids. Um,Beth Probst:
We all do. We, George, we all do. It is a work in progress. Um, I I just hope that your kids, my kids and everyone listening that their kids can, can help. They can see the path toward work that will make them excited and will play to their strengths and that they can ultimately love. I want them to head to work and be chuckling and, and smiling and thinking, I get to go do this. Um, wouldn't that I, I see you smiling. I know you like your job. I like my job. I'd like every kid to like their job.George Siegal:
I think that's crucial. If you don't like what you're doing, it's very hard to do it.Beth Probst:
Yep. So that's the goal. Let's help them get there.George Siegal:
All right. Thanks Beth.Beth Probst:
Thank you, George.George Siegal:
Thank you for joining me today on the Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. All the information to reach Beth is in the show notes, and there's also a link to all my social media and a contact form. If you have any ideas for future shows or comments about what you've seen. And if you like what you were listening to, please subscribe and share the link. If you have an extra minute, even leave a review. Thanks again for listening. See you next time.