As a GEAR UP TN Site Coordinator, I have the benefit of working closely with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to help students in Anderson County become college and career ready. One of the most exciting tools to help accomplish this goal thus far has been CollegeforTN.org, the state’s web-based career and educational planning system.
I was first introduced to CollegeforTN.org at a training facilitated by THEC that oriented our middle school counselors to the site and its many attributes. We found many of the individual assessments on the site to be especially fun and helpful for helping students link their own personalities and interests with future career opportunities. As I watched our counselors become like excited children going through the career interest inventory to learn about their own work personalities, it became immediately obvious that our students would also love using the site.
While it was no shock to find out that counseling is a suitable profession for all of the educators at the training, they had a blast laughing and cracking jokes about the hundred or so other professions identified as potential careers to match their interests.
Prior to having students take the interest inventory, Mrs. Elliott spoke of the importance of finding a career that fits each person, citing her own choice as an example as she loves caring for students daily and helping them set goals for their lives.
The students worked through 80 questions identifying tasks they would like and dislike. When completed, they proudly declared “I am social and entrepreneurial!” or other personality strengths their responses had reflected. Even if a student didn’t know the definition of entrepreneurial or other key words, they could find a thorough explanation of their indicated personality type right on the screen in discernible language suitable for almost every level. One additional click opened a long list of potential careers that also included salaries, training, skills, and more. A click on the job itself would give a full explanation of the particular chosen career. Not only did students learn what an anthropologist does, they figured out they might be a good fit for becoming one!
In a school where almost 78 percent of the students live below the poverty line, 90 students had a custom designed career match within 25 minutes of home. That’s huge for a group that has few examples of people engaged in work or careers outside their school or doctor’s office. The instant feedback feature of CollegeforTN.org tells students “you can be something important!” by showing them they have skills and attributes worthy of a profession.
Additionally, the site helps students research post-secondary programs related to their career interests. After Clinton Middle School students visited a local university, students went back to their interest inventory to see if their career interests had a matching program at the institution they had enjoyed.
As a teacher I always knew my effectiveness would increase if I could design an individual plan for every student. With CollegeforTN.org, it’s now a possibility.
My goal is to help my students create their own career GPS within this system and build a portfolio that will take them right into the post-secondary opportunity they desire. CollegeforTN.org is a tool to help make college for all my students a reality!