Helping High School Students Understand the Benefits of Career Services in College

By Natasha Barnes

The late adolescent stage (ages 15-25) in Super’s Career Developmental Theory usually begins when students are in high school.  Students experience four sub-stages of career development including exploration, crystalizing, and implementing.  In the Exploration sub-stage, students make efforts to gain occupational information, career alternatives, and occupational decisions.  Some may even begin employment in this stage. The Crystalizing sub-stage involves students’ ability to clarify what they truly want to do related to their career development and planning.  When students reach the Specifying sub-stage, they begin to specify educational and/or career preferences.  This could manifest as deciding if they want to engage in work or school on a part-time or full-time basis, identifying their fields of interest for educational purposes or the workforce, etc.  Lastly, in the Implementing sub-stage, students begin making plans to fulfill their career objectives.  At this point, talking to a career services professional could be beneficial to students as they get ready to make their leap into their next phase of life (Sharf, 2013).

While career services are recommended as a part of moving forward in one’s career development and planning, researchers say that fewer than 20% of undergraduate students visit career centers for assistance with finding jobs (Fadulu, 2020).  There were many reasons cited for students not engaging with career services.  One reason is that students are not ready and do not see the need to use the services at certain points in their educational journey.  Almost half (46%) of freshman students felt that career services were to be used as they are preparing to graduate and find jobs.  A second reason is due to fear and lack of comfort talking to a new person about something so personal and impactful.  Reflection about self, challenges, fears, dreams, and the personal responsibility and commitment needed to make a career choice can be difficult for many students (Colozzi & Thul-Sigler, 2016). A third reason that students avoid career centers is because they are already receiving advice from family and friends who they know and trust. A final reason is the lack of understanding about what career services encompasses and how the professionals and interventions can help (VitaNavis, 2019).

As school counselors, it is important to clearly understand not only the reasons that students avoid career services, but also understand the services that career centers have to offer to best prepare high school students for successful navigation of their college process.  Several steps can be taken by school counselors to assist with preparing students for this process. 

  1. Research.  School counselors can research career services at different colleges to make high school students aware of how these services can be beneficial to them in the early parts of their college journey.  Services that are provided at a career center may or may not be the same services that a career counselor would provide, as there are some career centers that are directed by individuals with business degrees, who cannot provide a career counseling focus but can provide career coaching services such as cover letter construction and resume building.  Because a business focus differs from a career counseling focus, it is important that school counselors do their research so that they are prepared to give students the most accurate information about the services that they can receive at a college career center. 
  2. Explain the Services and Benefits.  Many career centers provide opportunities for students to explore career paths, research the labor market, and receive career coaching services such as resume writing, cover letter creation, interviewing skills development (Columbia Southern University, 2022). It is important that school counselors provide students with a clear description of each service and benefit, especially to freshmen in college.  In contrast to graduation assistance with job search, early services could assist students as they are preparing to join clubs and organizations, to engage in service projects at the university, or to prepare for a job interview for a job to support them financially while in college.
  3. Invite Career Services Professionals to Speak.  Many high schools invite speakers to come to talk with the students about relevant topics. While these topics vary depending on the focus of the school and administration’s priorities, it is important that school counselors advocate for a speaker that lends to career services for the benefit of high school students who are planning to attend college. Having a local career services provider to attend a school assembly could serve many purposes, as it could expose students to what the career centers have to offer, as well as help them to engage with staff at a university level as needed for college or career preparation.
  4. Take Students to Career Centers.  Even more impactful than a visit from a career services professional could be a visit to a career center to actually witness how they work.  Allowing students to see firsthand how resources such as career guidance systems and technology can be used to support career development could be an invaluable experience.  Engaging with the staff in the career center on a more personal level to understand how and why they do what they do could not only increase the knowledge of and interest in career services, but it is also a way of introducing high school students to careers that they may not have considered. Additionally, a great way to expose students to the college experience is to provide them with a piece of the experience on site.

Istock 1388206904 Credit Valeriy G
Learning to Navigate a College Service for Career Development

Career services can have a major impact on a high school student’s future, but not many students are ready for the help or aware of the benefits of visits to the career center early in their educational journey.  As school counselors, making the effort to introduce high school students to the benefits of these services before entering college could aid them in navigating career services through their journey.  Additionally, this knowledge could assist students with having a better overall understanding of career interests and the entire college experience.



Colozzi, E. A., & Thul-Sigler, A. S. (2016). Cultivating a willing readiness to reflect: Interventions  that facilitate making career-life decisions. Career Convergence. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/129271/_self/CC_layout_details/false

Columbia Southern University. (2022). Nine ways using career services helps you manage your professional life. Author. https://www.columbiasouthern.edu/blog/blog-articles/2022/september/benefits-of-using-career-services/

Fandulu, L. (2018). Why aren’t college students using career services?  The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/01/why-arent-college-students-using-career-services/551051/

Sharf, R. S. (2023). Applying career development theory to counseling. Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

VitaNavis. (2019). Why Students Avoid Career Centers. The Myers-Briggs Company. https://blog.vitanavis.com/why-students-avoid-career-centers/


Natasha Barnes 2023Dr. Natasha Barnes, GCDF, CCC, NCC, is the owner of I.O.U. Consultation, where she provides career counseling and consultation services to secondary, post-secondary, and business sectors.  Additionally, Dr. Barnes is a clinical faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University. She is the Associate Editor of the K-12 department for Career Convergence and she serves as a co-chair of the committee of Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion for NCDA.  She can be reached at i.o.u.consultation@gmail.com



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Cynthia Russell    on Thursday 06/01/2023 at 10:41 PM

Great information! Very informative! Sharing!

Paul Bredderman   on Saturday 06/03/2023 at 04:23 PM

I enjoyed the article, Natasha. Having worked in the career center at a liberal arts university for nearly 20 years, I often felt that offering students an overview of career development that looked similar to Super's four sub-stages was reassuring to them - both in celebrating what they had already accomplished along the way and in seeing where they needed to go next. Finding a variety of ways to integrate the immediate concerns of first-year students with services in the career center is important. When we can recognize which of the sub-stages is relevant to the student, we know how to offer guidance through conversation, activities, and resources appropriate to exploring and crystalizing - and ultimately toward specifying and implementation. Having the head start of working with a career counselor or coach in the first year makes all of those micro-decisions one takes for granted less daunting and more manageable.

Joana Joe Daou    on Tuesday 06/06/2023 at 11:46 AM

I think the key point in this article is that school counselors need to do their research to see what is currently happening within the job market. When specific jobs are researched, they can be geared towards our students and matching them with their needs important too to make sure that they are successful. Career services need to increase within our secondary schools because students often times think that college is the only route to start their post secondary goals. Then after a a year or two, after spending time and money, they realize that college is not for them but rather getting trained in a specific trade such as HVAC, Masonry work, Carpentry, is the route they should have initially pursued.

Courtney McEntee   on Thursday 09/07/2023 at 10:15 AM

Great info Natasha! I think as school counselors it is important to understand how to guide students in their career search but also impossible to know ALL careers in detail so the guest speakers are definitely an important piece in the process.

Miranda Lilly   on Thursday 09/07/2023 at 10:17 AM

This article had great information! I always think it’s highly important for high school students to understand career services offered in and out of school. As a future school counselor, getting students engaged in career centers and explaining how they work is beneficial for the students. I like the idea of inviting speakers to come and talk with the students!

Raquel Londono   on Thursday 09/07/2023 at 06:55 PM

I enjoyed reading this article, particularly how it points out that as school counselors, we need to identify why students may not be using utilizing all of their resources and implement ways that will benefit as many students as possible.

Jaymie Johnson    on Friday 09/08/2023 at 05:48 PM

The information you shared in this article was concise, valuable, and practical. I understand that undergraduate career centers can feel daunting, so I appreciate your work outlining the various ways school counselors can introduce their services to high school students. If high school counselors have the opportunity, I believe that bringing students to a career center would be especially valuable. Attending a college career center with a familiar and trustable school counselor likely provides a lot of comfort in the college process.

Thank you for sharing your work!

Ashley Fleury    on Saturday 09/09/2023 at 11:57 AM

I really enjoyed this article! The information given about how less than 20% of undergraduate students use the career center to help them with the transition after college was interesting to me. I think the steps provided about how to help high schoolers become aware of the benefits of a career planning center are interesting, and when I think back to my own experience in high school I do not remember my counselors teaching us about career centers.

Lauren Berolini   on Sunday 09/10/2023 at 10:19 AM

I love the idea of having high school counselors introduce the notion of career counseling centers to students prior to college. This approach builds students' familiarity and comfort with career centers and increases the likelihood that students will one day elicit these services independently.

Olivia Gasbarro   on Sunday 09/10/2023 at 04:36 PM

I really appreciated this information! Not only were the issues of students not visiting their own career centers discussed, but also the resolutions we can provide for them. I personally was unaware of what my own college's career center provided for their students, and that is what kept me away from it. If I had known what I know today, I definitely would have stopped in to see what they could assist me with! Thank you for this article.

Diana Doorley   on Sunday 09/10/2023 at 09:36 PM

Hi, Dr. Barnes! Thank you for the article. As an undergrad student I, too, was nervous to attend the career center, and didn't think that it was necessary for me to visit until I was a senior. When I did go as a senior, a wonderful woman helped me with my cover letter and resume, and offered really great advice in a very comfortable setting. I love the idea of having students visit a career center ahead of time to learn what they offer and how it operates. This is a great idea for high school seniors or college freshmen. Being accompanied to the career center by a trusted counselor they already know would also make students feel more comfortable and will encourage them to ask more questions. I will definitely take this information into account as a future school counselor.

Brandyn Chace   on Monday 09/11/2023 at 05:24 PM

This is great information. I often wonder if I made the right career choice, and think back to college and wish that I had spent more time at the career center or a counselor reached out with some advice. I hope more and more students utilize the resources available to them at colleges and universities

peyton maher    on Tuesday 09/12/2023 at 06:41 PM

I enjoyed the article, I think it is important to guide students in their career search. I think It is a great thing for schools to have to get their students ready took look for jobs they are interested in and could be applicable for their future!

Jazlyn Contreras   on Wednesday 09/13/2023 at 10:29 AM

I agree with all points that you have written in this article! So many freshman and sophomore students in high school simply have not even thought about what they will do for a career and can benefit greatly by attending a career service center. It is very important for school counselors to be responsible in learning about career service centers and to provide to their students about how to attend one and the benefits as to why.

Cassandra Giarrusso   on Wednesday 09/13/2023 at 08:34 PM

This article was very informational. When I was in college, I did not use my career services as I should have. I think that letting students know about these career services and the services that they provide prior to them attending college is very beneficial for them to know what is out there for them to use. I loved the idea of having students visiting career services while still in high school, as well as having career service professionals come and talk to high school students!

Alexis Arruda   on Wednesday 09/13/2023 at 08:38 PM

This is a great article! I find it really interesting how there are are four substages to career development. This is something that I never knew and reading through each stage, I applied it to my own experiences when in high school and searching for the path that I wanted to take. The implementing substage didn't occur to me until I was doing a service experience at my high school in which I was placed at an elementary school. Before that, I knew I wanted to go to college, I just wasn't sure what for and I would have never thought that I would want to work with kids. Like the article states, I also avoided the career center because I was so nervous to start talking about these huge decisions that I would be making in my life. Although my plan was a big change from what I thought I may have wanted to do, I am so glad I chose the path that I did. Thank you for sharing this article!

Rachel Harraka   on Thursday 09/14/2023 at 09:37 AM

Awesome article Natasha. As someone who lacked motivation in high school to utilize these services, I believe it is so important to speak to the students about college preparation. There are so many things they will have to know and do to prepare for their next step, and having guest speakers, and individualized meetings geared toward the student's interest will help allow the student feel more understood, and inspired to pursue their goal.

Marilyn Santomaro   on Saturday 09/16/2023 at 05:24 PM

The main point in this article is that school counselors need to do their research related to careers and career services. However, it is important to have partners, such as career centers, because it isn't possible for school counselors to know every career available or ALL the touch points of them.

Tomas McLaughlin   on Monday 10/02/2023 at 10:59 AM

I appreciate your article for emphasizing the crucial need to educate high school students about the benefits of early engagement with career services in college. Your insights into the reasons behind students' reluctance and your practical suggestions on how school counselors can bridge this gap are particularly valuable.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.