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What Comes After High School?

Career Planning for Today’s Student

Now that you’re in high school and have classes under control, have you started thinking about what comes after these four years? It’s never too early, or too late, to start planning for your future. Do you want to go to college? Are you planning on joining the military, or will you start working right away? Is there a career you dream of pursuing, like being a doctor, teacher, journalist or graphic designer?

As the new school year gets under way, it’s a perfect time to start preparing for life after high school. Thinking about the career you want can help you make other decisions, like if you should go to college, what classes you should take and maybe even where you should look for a part-time job during your high school years.

Think about what you like to do. Make a list of things you’re good at, such as the classes you’re doing the best in and extracurricular activities that you enjoy. Include activities and pursuits you’re interested in, like hobbies. Don’t forget about your values (for example, do you want to make a lot of money or is helping others more important?). Organizing your thoughts is a great first step toward thinking about what you want to do after high school.

Research using ACTProfile or your school's designated career counsleing program. These online programs help you compare and choose from a network of education and career options. Visit to begin your research.

Look into careers that interest you. Find out as much as you can about these careers by researching them online and talking to adults you know in these fields. Pay a visit to your school counselor and ask your family members and adult mentors for advice on your search, too.

Take the right classes. Make sure you’re taking the classes needed for graduation, and, if you’re planning to go to college, the ones you will need for college admission. Also take classes that appeal to you and apply to your career interests.

Consider hands-on experience. If it’s possible, spend a day job shadowing, or check out volunteer opportunities that will give you experience in a field you’re interested in pursuing. The experience will look good on a resume or college admission application and you’ll find out if that field is something you’re good at and one you would enjoy.

Get a job that’s a career stepping stone. Choosing the right summer job can give you a lot more than a paycheck. Ideally, you want a job that’s in line with your long-term career goals. It might require some legwork to hunt down a summer job that’s a perfect fit. For example, if you have set your sights on becoming a marine biologist, it may be hard to find a summer job in that field when you live in a land-locked state. Some ways you could gain related experience include working at a county conservation office or a fish hatchery.

About ICAN

ICAN is a nonprofit, educational organization. ICAN is the College Access Network for Iowa, and a member of the National College Access Network (NCAN). ICAN has locations in Ankeny, Coralville, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Hiawatha, Orange City, Sheldon, Sioux City, and Waterloo, which provide information and support to students and their families as they plan their postsecondary education and apply for financial aid. All ICAN programs and services are provided without charge. For more information about ICAN, call (877) 272-4692 or visit


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