Supporting Your Child’s Learning At Home: 

The Family Playbook


How can I help my child prepare for the future?


Thinking, dreaming about, and planning for your future is a critical part of learning. No matter what grade your child is in, thinking about ideas for the future is important and creates opportunities for discovering interests and passions. (This work ramps up in 11th grade, when there are critical deadlines for students.) Proactively supporting your child’s exploration of college and career options will help them pave a path to an independent future. If you’re looking for guidance on how to do this, read on.


Talk about college and career options with your child. It is never too early or too late to talk about future options!

Career exploration for elementary and middle school students

  • Take note of your child’s interests and skills. Highlight links between things your child loves to do and careers that use those skills (for example, architects use math and art in their work.) 
  • Read books together that highlight a variety of career options. Here is a curated list to help you get started. 
  • Have your child interview family members and friends about their jobs. Help him/her create questions that interest them. For example: What do you like best about your job? What do you like least? What does your day look like? What other people do you work with? What does your workplace look like?). 
  • Encourage considering all kinds of careers. Be careful not to discourage careers you wouldn’t enjoy or ones you might associate with a certain gender. Research suggests that the more you talk about options, the more likely your child is to keep their mind open and aim high. 

Career exploration for high school students

  • Suggest you child take an aptitude or interest survey that will help highlight strengths, interests, and opportunities. Here’s a list of free online career assessments.
    • Suggest taking some free online classes linked to potential career interests. edX offers over 2500 free online classes .
    • Help your child start a portfolio of their successes and build a resume. While this will ultimately be a project for your child, perhaps by purchasing a binder and sheet protectors or by agreeing to edit their resume you can urge the work to begin. 
    • Explore virtual job shadow opportunities. If possible, connect your child to an internship, volunteer work or a job opportunity. 

College preparation for high school students

  • Check in on coursework. You and your child can schedule a conference with a teacher or counselor to make sure your child is taking the classes needed to get into universities. This ensures that they have the  option to apply. 
  • Talk about what types of school your child is interested in attending. Do they want to stay near home or attend in a different region; feel drawn to a rural, suburban or urban setting; prefer a small, medium, or big school; want a particular professor-to-student ratio? What are they looking for regarding majors, student organizations, or sports teams? Unigo offers a matching quiz to help students identify colleges and scholarships.
  • Create a college planning calendar. Add important deadlines to your calendar, such as applications due dates, dates for placement tests (ACT, AcuPlacer, AP, ASVAB, SAT, etc.), the due date for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA),, and any other important scholarship timelines. CA College Pathways has a handy list of deadlines curated. Your child’s high school may already be using a program to help with this; make sure you find out and have your child use it!
  • Research schools online. Check out whether their desired majors or credentials are available at colleges they’re interested in. It’s also worthwhile to look at a school’s newspaper and Facebook page to better understand school culture and opportunities.
    • Search for some college options on sites like College Board
    • Create physical and online systems to organize all the information and brochures. There will be a lot! 
  • Start visiting schools, first virtually and, if possible, on campus tour (hopefully while students are there). Prepare questions to ask campus tour guides.
  • Attend college fairs in your area and sign in at the tables for schools your student is interested in.
  • Brainstorm essay ideas. Brainstorm application essay ideas with your child. Think about important milestones in your child’s life or things that made a big impact.


  • Tool for elementary school students to list activities they like and connect them to future possible careers
  • Tool for high school students to use in comparing several careers of interest

Other Resources

  • Middle and high school students can explore different industry sectors and discover possibilities at California Career Zone
  • High school students and adults can explore careers and analyze different jobs at ONet
  • Use Cappex to see search for colleges and understand what it takes to get accepted

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