Career mapping: Charting a course towards increasing student ownership in college and career planning



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The purpose of this study was to determine the significance of personal graduation plans (PGPs), with the incorporation of programs of study and other career components, as a career-driven mapping tool for increasing high school students’ ownership in college and career planning. PGPs are relatively a new education reform initiative across our country, and very little scholarly research has been conducted in this area. While secondary school counselors were the main focus of this study because they were assigned the primary responsibility for developing and implementing students’ PGPs by their school administrator, there are opportunities for collaboration with counselors and Career and Technical Education teachers, specifically Family and Consumer Sciences teachers, to support students in this process.

An explanatory sequential mixed methods approach was used to collect quantitative data on high school students’ career planning readiness and on school counselors’ self-efficacy in career counseling, as well as qualitative data on school counselors’ perceptions of the PGP process in increasing the value of an education for students. Pre- and post-quantitative data were collected and revealed that once students participated in career planning activities specific to their areas of weakness on a research-based career planning instrument, their level of career planning readiness increased in making solid career decisions. Additionally, pre- and post-test results revealed that once school counselors received professional career development and planning training by the researcher at the beginning of this study, it increased their confidence in their ability to provide career counseling for students and in helping students take ownership of the college and career planning process.

The qualitative data included ten interviews with secondary school counselors to assess the effectiveness of the PGP development process with students. Four major components of the PGP process that were pivotal in increasing students’ ownership in college and career planning: 1) the PGP as a self-awareness and career exploration tool; 2) the PGP as a college- and career-driven mapping tool; 3) the PGP as a decision-making and goal-setting tool; and 4) the PGP as a conversational tool between students and parents.

The implications of this research showed PGPs are effective in increasing students’ ownership in college and career planning, especially when they have complete buy-in by administrators, faculty, and parents. This research also showed that our secondary school counselors cannot develop and implement PGPs in isolation. Family and Consumer Sciences teachers, whose national and state standards align with the American School Counselor Association’s national model on college and career readiness standards, also need to be included on the school counselors’ PGP team.

In the future, a longitudinal study should be considered to further confirm these findings presented.



Personal, Graduation, Plan, College, Career, Development, Planning, Secondary, Counselors