All too often, a teenager is dumbfounded when it comes to filling out that all-important college application form, especially when he gets to the part where he has to choose a specific course. Will he opt for a course that seems easy, ensuring him an almost stress-free time in college? Or will he go for a course that’s difficult but singularly interesting, guaranteeing him a fulfilling collegiate journey?

Of course, we want our children to make up their own minds, but who’s to say that we shouldn’t make ourselves part of the process? Your child needs your counsel now more than ever. After all, it’s his future that’s at stake.

Steer him toward making the right decision by asking him the following questions:

  • Who are your heroes?

Who does your child look up to? Is it his soccer coach, who’s good at encouraging every player to do his best? Is it his aunt, who runs her own business? Or maybe it’s the chef, who whips up delicious meals at your family’s favorite restaurant? Knowing who your child’s heroes are will give you an idea of the kind of person that he hopes to be.

  • What do you dream about?

Does he dream of having a corner office at a top corporation? Does he see himself running a small resort in an island paradise? Or maybe he wants to be a social leader, fighting for causes dear to his heart? Knowing your child’s dreams will give you an idea of the kind of lifestyle that he hopes to lead in the future.

  • What do you like? What don’t you like?

Steer your questions toward possible career choices. For example, does he like working with people? Does he fancy the arts or are the sciences more to his liking? Would he rather solve tricky problems or come up with fabulous ideas?

  • How would you describe yourself?

Is he adventurous or conforming? Would he describe himself as an introvert or an extrovert? Is he a pessimist or an optimist? Does he know how to put order in a chaotic environment? Or does he work better in a messy place?

After gathering all his replies, the two of you can match his personality and interests with suitable career opportunities. Here we look toward Dr. John Holland’s theory of career choice. According to his theory, there are six personality types, each of which can be matched with suitable job environments.

  • The realist is practical, persistent, and self-effacing with a talent for things mechanical. He may not be blessed with social skills, but he knows how to get the job done. He’ll make a good mechanic, farmer, or surveyor.
  • The artistic is idealistic, expressive, and independent with a flair for the dramatic. He has a talent for the arts, but has a hard time keeping his files in order. He’ll make a good writer, actor, or interior decorator.
  • The investigative is analytical, rational, and precise with a liking for math and science. He’ll make a good chemist, physicist, or medical technologist.
  • The social is generous, persuasive, and responsible with a knack for listening to people. He’ll make a good psychologist, counselor, or teacher.
  • The enterprising is adventurous, self-confident, and ambitious. He is a born leader with excellent speaking abilities. He’ll make a good salesperson, corporate executive, or television producer.
  • The conventional is efficient, conscientious, and obedient. He likes things nice and precise, and would stick to a plan no matter what. He’ll make a good accountant, financial analyst, and banker.

This is a rational way of steering your child toward a college course that suits his temperament and interests. Of course, you cannot force him to do it your way. Still, give it a try. At the very least, he will gain more self-knowledge from this exercise, something that he’ll need as he enters the world of adults.