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Frequently Asked Questions

Most of my students are headed for college. Why do they need career guidance?
50% of students drop out of college or do not graduate within six years. That statistic alone should convince you of the need for all students to receive a comprehensive guidance course. In addition, studies of college students show that students who are career-focused and career-committed are far more likely to graduate from college and transition into the workforce at the level for which their college education prepared them.

Today, 20% of 26-year-olds live at home or are not economically independent of their parents. Addressing the issue as it relates to economic self-sufficiency requires students to understand the necessity for a career focus.

How is a comprehensive guidance course different than a career exploration course?
While career exploration is an important subset of a comprehensive guidance course (CGC), a CGC is so much more. In addition to career exploration, a CGC must help students:
  • Learn to project into the future and understand the consequences of today's choices and actions
  • Understand how to match academic and educational effort to lifestyle expectations
  • Become identity-achieved through contemplation and self-discovery
  • Learn and practice the communication, interpersonal, and self-management skills necessary to succeed in today's educational and workforce settings
  • Identify and plan for the challenges and stumbling blocks that are inevitable in today's fast-paced, competitive world
  • Analyze quantitatively what economic self-sufficiency equals for them
  • Become proactive, rather than reactive, in managing change in their lives
Besides traditional career exploration topics, a CGC helps young people understand the challenges and the benefits of a consciously planned career path. Armed with this information, they are far more likely to persevere when they hit life's "speed bumps."

Our school uses a software-based (or online) tool for helping students choose a career. Isn't that enough?
It might be enough for the top 20% to 30% of your students. For the students who receive this information and exploration at home, a couple of hours with a software program might be all the extra guidance they need. But for the balance of your students—the ones who do not see the relevance in education and cannot envision a productive future with plans to realize their dreams—a couple hours in front of a computer screen is just not enough to set them on the path to making the second most important decision of their lives: How they'll spend 40 hours per week for the next 40 years.

In addition, it is important that all students have the skills and information necessary to change direction when they are forced or want to change careers. If they learn the process using the real-world research and decision-making applications readily available on U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored websites (rather than relying on lab-based software programs that are unavailable once they graduate), they'll have the confidence to plot their own productive work-life course. They'll be empowered with the skills to manage their own career trajectory after they leave school and will not have to rely on tools that "magically" come up with a career choice or direction once a survey is completed.

Video - Strategies for Incorporating an Online Career Exploration Tool

I teach English. Why should I get involved with career and life planning?
Presenting a career-planning theme in an English classroom—or any other academic classroom—adds instant relevancy, capturing the imaginations of even hard-to-motivate students. Students are engaged because the reading and writing assignments address their most important identity issues most. The Possibilities anthology includes many required pieces, but encourages students to view the literature from a new perspective.

What is Possibilities? How can it be incorporated into my Career Choices curriculum?
Possibilities is the language arts component in the Career Choices series, linking 50 selections of poetry, short stories and essays to specific lessons in the Career Choices text.

If you are not an English teacher or responsible for the academics of English, we suggest that you form a team teaching pair with an English teacher and teach the course together. An English teacher might consider team teaching this course with a home economics teacher, guidance counselor, career education instructor, or social studies teacher.

What students learn in the main text, Career Choices, will give their reading and writing assignments more depth and richness. Many of the literature pieces we ask young people to read include topics that require "experience with life" to be fully appreciated. The Career Choices process helps students better understand the challenges of their future as they gain valuable insight from the contributions of great authors. We call this our "Authors as Mentors" program.

Does this replace the current English curriculum?
It can. As instructors begin to use the curriculum, they quickly realize that outcomes required of students in English can be accomplished by using this thematic approach. For example, the traditional novels used as required reading in the 9th grade (The Diary of Anne Frank, Bless the Beasts and Children, Romeo and Juliet) can all be incorporated into the life lessons students are learning in Career Choices. See pages 99, 105, 199 of the Instructor's and Counselor's Guide for Career Choices.

Can Possibilities be taught as a stand-alone component?
Yes, some schools order just Possibilities, but to achieve the full impact of the curriculum, it should be taught in conjunction with Career Choices.

Why was the Career Choices series designed in a way that requires the student to use both a textbook/workbook and the online
Download the PDF.

How can an English teacher and a home economics teacher, business teacher, or guidance counselor work together?
The Career Choices program is an ideal program for an English teacher and a home economics teacher, business teacher, or guidance counselor to team teach.

Try to identify an English, home economics, business teacher, or guidance counselor (at the 8th or 9th grade level) who is innovative, enthusiastic and likes to try new ideas. Get them a 60-day review set of the Career Choices books. Once they’ve looked at the materials and are interested, set up a consultation with our Technical Service Administrator, who can help you strategize your efforts.

How long does it take to complete the curriculum?
It all depends on your goals and how much interdisciplinary academics you want to include.

You can complete a comprehensive version of the curriculum in a nine-week course if you are only using the career and life-planning component of the main textbook. If you want to incorporate Possibilities into the same classroom, you will want to allow for a semester.

If two teachers are team teaching in a two-hour block scheduling situation (for example an English teacher and a home economics or career education teacher), a nine-week segment is adequate.

There are enough expansion ideas included in the Instructor's and Counselor's Guide and projects in Possibilities and Lifestyle Math to make this a complete year-long course. Read more about how the curriculum is being used by educators across the nation.

Can we skip around and just use certain parts of the curriculum?
One of the strengths of this curriculum is that it teaches a process (and a very important process at that). This process can be used over and over again throughout your students’ lives. Individuals will want to revisit this questioning process (Who am I? What do I want? How do I get it?) many times during their lifetime. The experience will leave your students better able to cope with the challenges of life, changing jobs, losing jobs, choosing careers, changing careers, life planning and strategies, where to live, who to marry, and family planning issues. Therefore, we do not recommend skipping around within the curriculum.

Career Choices is a sequential curriculum, and each new skill and activity builds on previous knowledge gained earlier. It has been carefully designed to include scope and sequence and is best used in its entirety and in order. The average class can complete the course in its basic format (not incorporating the academic components of English and math) within one quarter, a nine-week time frame.

What if we want to complete half in one grade and half in the next?
Some schools choose this format because they want to complete the course work but can only devote fewer than nine weeks to teaching the material in each grade. In this case, we suggest that the first segment be the first six chapters and the second segment be the second six chapters. But, this is not the ideal and should be carefully reviewed each year.

Can we photocopy the Workbook and Portfolio (or any other book)?
No. It is not permissible to photocopy any of the textbooks. Because of our contracts with both authors and distributors, we have limitations on what we can allow. If you feel that you have special circumstances, please put your request in writing and send or fax it to our Permissions Department. We will respond to your request within 15 working days. Contact us.

What if the students I work with are still struggling with basic skills?
Career Choices is academically based, providing basic skill practice disguised as self-discovery. What was once viewed as "drill and skill" is now camouflaged by meaningful personal exercises and activities. By the end of the class, attitudes about education drastically change because students understand how being able to read, write, and compute directly impacts their futures.

Is it really possible to get the average 14-year-old to write a comprehensive 10-year plan for their future?
Absolutely! When taught in sequence, Career Choices leads students through a step-by-step process (up to 100 active-learning exercises) that enables them to articulate who they are and what they want their lives to look like after high school. Each of the activities builds on the ones before. When documented in the Workbook and Portfolio, students can easily compile their plan and store it online to reassess, review, modify, or update later.

What is the reading level of the texts?
Career Choices has been evaluated at a 9th grade reading level. Possibilities has selections that are included in the English "canon" for middle school and high school, primarily at 9th grade.

My students have low reading levels (two to three grades below). Can the curriculum work for them as well?
More than 17,500 JTPA participants used the Career Choices curriculum during the summers of 1994 and 1995. The JTPA population includes a high percentage of students with reading levels well below grade level. Because the material covered in the curriculum is so relevant to the adolescents, the motivation is present to try harder to read, understand and comprehend the written word. Instructors report that the unique design of the text is also "friendlier" to the students. Because students feel less threatened by Career Choices than by more traditional textbooks, they are more willing to struggle with their reading.

Will Career Choices work with my special population?
San Gabriel High School, an East Los Angeles High School, combines Career Choices with Speech to introduce cooperative learning skills vastly needed in the world of work. This class population is 85% students of color, bringing to the table many different values and dreams. For greater detail see Career Guidance: Helping Students Make Smart Choices.

In Minnesota, the English department teams up with On-the-Job (OTJ) to create Transitions, a comprehensive class for Special Education seniors headed for the workplace right after graduation. The innovative teachers used Career Choices to help these special students overcome their fears and start envisioning their future. For more detail see Vocational Guidance for the Special Education Classroom.

In the Medina County Ohio School District, the School-to-Work Coordinator overcame the challenge of reviving a failed training and employment program for at-risk youth. These students were mainly fifth year seniors who were not expected to graduate. The educators integrated Career Choices with Possibilities and Lifestyle Math to create a very successful, very real-life experience for these students that gave them a sense of hope. For additional information see Life 101: Career Guidance for At-Risk Youth

How can we implement Career Choices in our Tech Prep program?
If Tech Prep programs are to succeed, students must come to them willingly and with enthusiasm. And to do that, they must understand what's in it for them, what impact it will have on their future life satisfaction. The Career Choices program was specifically designed to give the guidance experience in an academic setting that will produce motivated learners.

Young people today have more choices about how to structure their lives than any other generation before them. And because of the complexity of today's technological world, it is imperative that students make more and more sophisticated choices at a younger and younger age (for many states, as early as the 10th or 11th grade).

We can no longer afford to leave the career planning and guidance tasks to "time and experience." Students need to focus on their educational options early, as they will be asked to make a choice of Tech Prep versus college prep.

It is imperative today that young people receive 45 to 180 hours of in-classroom guidance curriculum that teaches them a process for dealing with the various changes and choices they will face over their lifetime. The ideal age for this is between 13 and 15 years old, just prior to them being asked to make important educational decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.

This can be accomplished in the English/language arts classroom while at the same time meeting the learning objects of the traditional English classroom.

We haven't received our books yet and I have to start teaching tomorrow. What can I do?
You can still get your course off to an enthusiastic start even without the books. Be sure to have your students fill out the Pre-Class Survey on the first day of class to gauge your students’ attitudes toward the class and to be able to show the changes in their attitudes over the course of the class. Also check out the Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans for a Successful Launch in the Resource Cupboard for 15 days’ worth of lessons that rely minimally on the textbooks.

Why do we need a lead teacher?
Every Career Choices program needs a lead teacher to create buy-in throughout their school for the Freshman Transition effort and conduct periodic trainings for staff members. Research has found that the best professional development is ongoing and constant, and the most cost-effective way for your school to achieve this is if one of your teachers can conduct those trainings for the rest of your staff.

Does every teacher need an Instructor's Guide or can they share?
Every teacher needs his or her own Instructor’s Guide and should refer to it daily so that they can conduct classes as effectively as possible. This has consistently proven to be a trait of all the most successful Career Choices programs. The Instructor’s Guide contains lesson plans and discussion ideas for each activity and section of the book, so it makes it infinitely easier to teach the course successfully.

What should we name the course?
Carefully titling your class can help lessen resistance. We suggest you leave the word “freshman” out of the title because freshmen don’t necessarily want to be identified as such. Use the term “Freshman Transition course” within your administrative circle if you like, but we suggest not titling your course such.

Let’s think about what is important to the consumer. In this case, you have two consumers—students and parents. Let the course title set up their expectations. For the student, what will be the result of taking this class? For the parents, what result do they want for their child?

You may have to convince the administration to change the title of a pre-existing course or a course that has passed the school board, but it’s worth the effort. If you find resistance to a name change, start by brainstorming with the resistant group. Develop a list of words that describe the desired result of the class.

Many schools using Career Choices have incorporated the course title Success 101. This concept would be hard to argue with from both a parent’s and a student’s point of view. While some parents might think their student doesn’t need a “Freshman Experience” class, all parents want their students to have the skills and the attitudes to be successful.

The “101” suggests college or post-secondary and the notion of the beginning or the first step in a series or process.

Can this be used as a summer program?
You will experience the best results in dropout prevention and college readiness by completing the entire curriculum, in sequence, which is a challenge to accomplish in the summer. Various schools have adapted the curriculum to fit into a summer program, however, and experienced great success, as well.

What about Data?
Career Choices has been used for over 20 years by more than 4,800 schools and has proven to be a valuable tool in decreasing dropout rates and improving students’ readiness for college. You can read about studies involving Career Choices and success stories from schools that have implemented Career Choices programs at

What is a Career Choices Master Teacher and why would I want to be one?
Career Choices master teachers have developed programs that work in a variety of settings for many different populations. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge with the Career Choices curriculum and are willing to share their expertise with other users of Career Choices via phone or e-mail. As a mentor to others, a master teacher may also be called upon to host a delegation at his or her school, make a presentation at a statewide conference, or speak with a news reporter about his or her Career Choices course. Master teachers enjoy being able to contribute to the success of even more Career Choices programs and thus the success of even more students. Find out more at the Master Teacher Spotlight in the Teacher’s Lounge.

How can I find the standards correlations?
You can find correlations to the Common Core Standards and various state-specific standards at

How can I find a workshop or training?
You can find out just about anything you would want to know about upcoming workshops at
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