PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 160 | College And Career Talk With Your Teenager

A new study revealed that 42% of recent high school graduates lack confidence about their future college and career prospects. PrepWell Academy will put an end to that trend.

A new study of 500 recent high school graduates revealed that 42% of them feel unconfident or slightly confident about their post-high school educational and career paths.

72% reported that they were rarely or only sometimes exposed to potential career options.

64% had 5 or fewer conversations with teachers or counselors about various post-high school opportunities.

This really got my attention because it's what I think about every day.

PrepWell's mission, and my personal crusade, is to have conversations like these so that students are prepared for their future.

The backbone of PrepWell Academy is to teach the tools, tactics, and mindset necessary to be successful no matter what path a student chooses (e.g. study habits, test preparation, time management, writing, advocacy, leadership, etc.).

Please listen to this episode to ensure that your child doesn't become one of the 42% of students who lack confidence in their future.

Show Transcript:

[00:00:22] Hello friends and welcome to the PrepWell Podcast.. In today's episode, I wonder why our teenagers appear to have so little conviction about what they want to be or do someday. Particularly in light of how easy it should be to learn about careers and work life and lifestyles these days through parents, teachers, counselors, social media, YouTube, podcasts and the like. In the work that I do, I would guess about 10% of the students that I talk to have a very clear picture about what they think they want to do when they grow up. About 30% have absolutely no idea what they want to do down the road. And the large majority, call it 60%, have only a general idea of what they may want to do down the road. And the most that they'll commit to is STEM versus humanities or vice versa. Is this unusual? I don't know. This is just my experience over the last 8 to 10 years, working very closely with hundreds of high school students. I've yet to find a long term study that shows whether this is typical for 17 and 18 year olds. But what really got my attention was a recent study by Youth Science that highlighted how unprepared high school students felt about performing well in college and making smart career choices. The study was based on 500 students who graduated between 2019 and 2022, which is right in my wheelhouse.

[00:02:11] And the reason this study piqued my interest is because, number one, it cuts to the very core of PrepWell Academy's mission. And two, it speaks to my deep personal interest in helping students with these questions. PrepWell Academy's mission and my personal passion is to prepare high school students well for college and ultimately for making smart, self-reflective and thoughtful decisions about career choices. And by the way, that is not to say that I advocate or even expect high schoolers to really know what they want to do long term as 17 or 18 year olds. I know I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to be prepared for anything and everything. And in fact, I'm so invested in this process specifically because of my own experience in finding my way through the career Whac-A-Mole game. I'm doing the best that I can with my own four sons and I want to try to do the same for your child as well. My goal is, and I hope my sons would attest to this, is not to pigeonhole you into something prematurely, but instead to prepare you to be the best that you can be. So that if and when you find that special career or industry or business or movement or cause that you want to dig into, that you're ready to rock and roll. And it may not be the first or the fourth or the 10th thing you try. I want you to be prepared to try and test and experiment with everything. And I'm sure that this philosophy comes from my own experience trying my hand at different careers and lifestyles. I started out as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs for a few years and experienced what life was like in Manhattan running deals.

[00:04:07] And I switched gears and became a Navy SEAL officer and went running and gunning around the world for a few years. I then left the Navy and spent two years at Harvard Business School getting an MBA. And then 9/11 happened, and I found myself back at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, this time as a money manager. And that lasted for about six months before I left again, this time to San Diego, where I became a city firefighter. And as a firefighter in my spare time, along with raising four sons, I took up entrepreneurship and speaking and consulting. I was on Shark Tank twice. I'm now a deputy fire marshal and still running my own businesses. Now, the point of this resume dump is to highlight my own personal journey toward fulfillment. All powered by an insatiable drive to overprepare myself for whatever the world has to offer. Until I found my spot. And that's my hope for my sons and for all my PrepWellers that's the point of PrepWell Academy to prepare you for anything. And Lord knows the way things are changing in the world right now, you better be prepared for anything. Now for those students who think they know what they want to do at age 15. Awesome PrepWell works for you too because all of the lessons you learn about preparation can be channeled toward your particular interest and that will serve you well. And for those students who aren't quite sure what they want to do, understanding what it means to prepare yourself for any situation is especially important because you're not sure what you're going to end up doing, and that's okay. This intense focus on being prepared for anything runs deep in my life. It's one of the reasons I became a Navy SEAL.

[00:06:01] For those who don't know what SEAL stands for, it's an acronym for Sea, Air and Land. SEALs train to be highly proficient in each one of these unforgiving environments. That means a lot of training, also known as preparation. SEALs are known not only to be experts in sea, air and land warfare, but to be experts in becoming experts in other disciplines. Oftentimes, overnight, SEALs need to become experts in meteorology, languages, cultural norms, construction plans, foreign weaponry, survival skill, you name it. They are essentially jack of all trades, master of all trades, because the stakes are very high and our level of training and resources and mindset is without peer. Am I suggesting that PrepWell Academy will train you to become a Navy SEAL? No. But the concept of intense preparation in order to be ready for whatever life throws at you, that's the overarching theme. And so I wonder why is it that so many students feel so unprepared for college and career? And by extension, in my opinion, for life. Well, let's look at the data from the study. First off, 42% of high school graduates again, that's between 2019 and 2022, felt unconfident or slightly confident about pursuing their post-high school education or career path. 42%, that's a pretty big number of people saying that they're unconfident or slightly confident. And of that, 42% who felt unconfident or slightly confident. 72% reported that they were rarely or only sometimes exposed to a variety of potential career options. And 64% had five or fewer conversations with teachers or counselors about their various post-high school opportunities. Clearly, none of the 42% of those 500 students in the study were enrolled in PrepWell Academy. And I know that none of these students ever had a private consultation with me, because I will not let a student get off the phone until we've hashed out a lot of this.

[00:08:25] Now, on the other end of the spectrum, only 24% of graduates felt very or extremely confident in their chosen career or educational path upon graduation. 24% of the 500 respondents. That's about 125 students. Well, they must all be PrepWellers. Now of the 24% of these graduates who felt very or extremely confident, 81% of them reported that they were often or sometimes exposed to a variety of career options that could be pursued. 81%. 47% (almost half) said they had between five and 20 conversations with teachers or counselors about various post-high school opportunities. So you definitely want to be in this group of students that the group of 24% who are regularly exposed to career and educational opportunities and engage in conversations about these pathways with adults. I'm not sure we'll ever know why such a large percentage of students feel unprepared and unconfident. 42%. I'm not sure we'll ever know whether this trend is growing or slowing or staying the same. I have my suspicions, but I don't know for sure and I hope somebody is studying this. What I do know for sure and the numbers in this study bear it out, is that students need more exposure to discussions about college majors, educational paths, career options. This is why I spend a lot of time in my weekly online videos inside PrepWell Academy discussing these very things. And of course, when I have private consultations with students, I can go much deeper into these conversations because I have a lot more context to work with. We discuss college majors, stem versus humanities, career trajectories, lifestyle choices, and I challenge PrepWellers to regularly list their interests to see how they're changing over time and to prioritize their major preferences. I talk constantly about shaping extracurricular activities around what students think might be their educational or career path.

[00:10:40] I encourage students to follow social media accounts and podcasts and careers that they're interested in. I love talking about this stuff because I feel like I can help students relate to a wide variety of careers and majors and lifestyle choices, from investment banking to money management to civil service work to entrepreneurship. From living in the bustling urban cities of New York and San Francisco, to the more laid back beach scene of San Diego. Working for the private sector versus the public sector. Making a lot of money and a modest amount of money. Pursuing high risk opportunities and low risk opportunities. Sticking with a job for a long time and leaving jobs after just a few years. Working for myself. Working for a city, working for the federal government, working in big teams, small teams, and by myself as a sole proprietor, working in jobs with no work life balance and jobs with ultimate work life balance. Going to graduate school. I have experience with all of these permutations over the last 30 years, and I really enjoy helping students think through how their lives might play out based on decisions they're making now. The biggest decision is not necessarily whether they want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a biology major or a physics major. Not that there's anything wrong with those goals. But it's about their commitment to preparation in all of its forms because as I said, it's pretty rare that a 17 or 18 year old has their perfect plan laid out and that they will move effortlessly down that path with no obstacles. They have some ideas, maybe, but as I can attest, these ideas don't always play out as planned, and that's not a bad thing as long as you're prepared to make adjustments.

[00:12:32] The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be to stop something that isn't working to pursue something different, presumably better. My goal is to give you the tools and the mindset to be this type of person, the type of person who can boldly pursue their interests because they know that if it doesn't work out, that they simply redeploy the same set of skills and habits and protocols in a way that will help them succeed in almost any field. That's the goal. And in this regard, PrepWell Academy delivers this one two punch. Punch number one weekly video lessons starting in ninth grade on how to prepare for school tests, papers, interviews, college applications, standardized tests, homework. And then punch number two weekly videos that expose students to college major ideas, industry interests, career paths. This is a common theme among many of the weekly topics, including many of my PrepWell Podcast episodes. And bonus punch number three is when PrepWellers engage with me for private one on one sessions where we can really dig into the details of what any particular student wants to do or wants to avoid, and how to get them closer to making that dream a reality. So the bottom line is this both anecdotally and from the data in this recent survey, it appears that a large majority of students lack confidence when it comes to pursuing their post-high school educational and career goals. And it's my job through my online lessons inside prep academy, as well as my one on one work with students and my podcasting to help build that confidence back up. How is this done? How does one build confidence? Confidence is built through preparation. If you are prepared for the task, you are confident in the task.

[00:14:31] If you're not sure what you're getting into and you have a wishy washy outlook on where you're headed, you will lack the confidence to get there. So prepare, prepare, prepare. And as I like to say, your key to getting ahead is to out prepare your peers. So if you're already a prep weller, make sure you're caught up on all your weekly videos. If you're behind, this holiday break would be a great time to catch up. Also, make sure you're scrolling through 150 or so podcast episodes and look for a few that catch your eye. And if you're at the point where you could use a one on one session with me to help set you on that path, let me know and we'll make it happen. If your son or daughter is in middle school, congratulations for being on top of the stuff so early in the game. You're my heroes. Stick around for a few years and your children will have the opportunity to learn all of this stuff. Starting after eighth grade graduation. If you have a ninth or 10th grader who is not yet enrolled in prep academy, I encourage you to get them on board. Enroll in one of the programs for the cost of a Netflix subscription. The longer you wait, the worse things get. And by the way, the program is only open to ninth and 10th graders for registration. Registration closes for juniors and seniors. So enroll now before that window closes. If you're interested in a one on one private consulting session with me for any reason at all, and they do run the gamut. Please reach out and we'll make it happen. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support.

[00:16:02] In case you didn't know, this podcast supports PrepWell Academy's online mentoring program, where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me, where I break down important topics and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships. Many parents who listen to this podcast already have their high schoolers enrolled in PrepWell Academy, which is great if you don't yet. However, please consider enrolling them. Registration is only open during freshman or sophomore year. After that, we no longer accept new students. So if you have a freshman or a sophomore in high school and like what you're hearing in this podcast and you like to get more content like this tailored specifically for your child for their specific grade and with their specific goals in mind, go to and enroll today. If you know a parent with a middle schooler or a high schooler that might find this helpful, please share the episode with them and give us a rating. Word of mouth and positive ratings help our podcast reach a wider audience. If you have questions, comments or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email. DM on Instagram Check out our blog Facebook page or connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you. Till next week. Goodbye. Good luck and never stop preparing.

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Podcast Host:

PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank (2X), etc.

Learn More About PrepWell:

Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.

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