Supporting Your Teen as They Navigate Their Future Education and Career Journey

March 1, 2024

Choosing a path after high school can be challenging for students. National research from ECMC Group’s Question The Quo campaign shows 75% of current teens feel pressure to pursue a four-year degree, even though only more than half feel they can be successful without one.  

Specifically, the data has found that many teens want a shorter, less expensive and more career-connected option. In fact, 65% say their ideal education path would involve learning skills on the job, 48% say postsecondary education should last three years or fewer and 62% worry about how they will pay for college. 

The main takeaway is that many teens have changed their wants and needs when it comes to their future education and work, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the parent or guardian of a high schooler, you play a key role in helping your student decide their future path. In fact, our surveys show that teens often look to their immediate family for guidance and support. 

Here are some things you can do to help: 

  • Assist your teen by helping them explore the many educational options available to them. Four-year degrees are a great pathway for some students, but others may prefer community college or career and technical programs that offer education and training that fit the needs of today’s employers. 

  • Only 13% of teens feel that the resources they have received have fully prepared them to decide what to do after graduation. Know that the process of choosing a future path is potentially stressful for your student and find ways that you can best support them. 

  • Recognize that the workforce and education landscape today is much different from when you were making these decisions for yourself. Factors such as the pandemic, rising costs of education, the economy and shifts in requirements for the workforce have changed students’ perspectives. 

The research we gathered is part of our Question The Quo campaign, which is designed to empower Gen Z teens to take the education and career path that is right for them. In addition to the resources available on our website, our affiliate ECMC offers a wide variety of free resources, including the Opportunities Guide and Workbook that offers easy-to-use planning worksheets in both English and Spanish. 

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To learn more about the Question The Quo campaign, check out other sections on our website.  

ECMC Group developed the Question The Quo campaign to empower high school students to explore the various postsecondary education options available and take the path that's right for them. Grounded in the results of national surveys conducted in partnership with VICE Media, Question The Quo encourages teens to evaluate education beyond high school while considering cost, parental and role model influences, and societal norms. 

Question The Quo is powered by ECMC Group, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit with a mission to help students succeed by creating, providing and financially supporting advancements in postsecondary education.