PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 195 | What Is Interest-probing?

Help your child figure out what they are interested in by using my strategy called "interest probing".

Show Notes:

In this week's podcast, I discuss a strategy that I call "interest-probing".

  • How do you help your child figure out what they are interested in?
  • How might that interest translate into a college major or career?
  • How do you stress-test their interest to see if it's durable?

In this episode, I review a case study of a PrepWeller who is doing it right.

Show Transcript:

Hello, friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell podcast. In today's episode, I want to introduce you to a concept that I call interest probing, that is trying to help your child figure out what they're interested in by encouraging them to try certain things in an organized and systematic way. Because helping your child figure out what they're interested in or what they may want to explore further in college, or even as a career can be challenging to say the least. And to the extent that you or I can help your child in this regard, it's going to help them immensely, especially when it comes to the college admissions process for a number of reasons that I hope we'll touch on. And the reason I'm bringing this up is because many teenagers today and by teenagers I mean high schoolers, they seem to fall into one of four categories, Category number one. They're very interested in a thing category. Number two, they aren't quite sure what they're interested in. Category three, they have a lot of interests, but they can't narrow it down or Category four. They haven't really thought about it very much. And the reason that I like to challenge students to think about what they're interested in and ultimately to act on that idea is because it can give their time in high school and college some structure. And if they're suppose it, interest is real and they work at it and it sticks. It can be an accelerant to a successful future. That's not to say that they have to have everything figured out as a teenager or as a college student, for that matter, whether it be an intended major in college or a career interest or a field of study that they're interested in.

It just means that thinking about what they're interested in should be on their radar. They should not just be floating through high school, completely clueless about what comes next and how their actions now may impact their success later on. Ideally, they should be in tune with what they're interested in and they should be taking steps to help them turn those interests into a game plan. When I talk to high schoolers in an attempt to learn what college major might be a good fit for them or what college might be a good fit for them, or what career might be a good fit for them, I usually get three responses. Response number one, they're not sure what they're interested in. Response. Number two, they claim they're super interested in topic X, but they're not doing anything about it. And response number three, they claim they're really interested in topic X and they are doing something about it. This episode is going to be all about the first two cases students who have no idea what they're interested in and they're happy to leave it at that. And students who claim that they're interested in something, but then they don't do anything to back up that claim. Enter the world of interest. Probing interest. Probing is a strategy that helps students figure out what, in fact, they are interested in by probing the world around them and looking for feedback. And that requires thought and a plan and action. My favorite example of this is a student that I've been working with who claimed that he was interested in pursuing something related to sports, maybe sports management, maybe sports entertainment, something in this genre that it's a good start.

It's pretty common idea for young males, but that's okay. The student happened to be a great high school athlete, played three varsity sports. He loved watching ESPN, loved following all the popular sports figures. So this student didn't fall into the I'm not sure what I'm interested in category. So he had that going for him. He also didn't fall into the I really love sports and sports management, and that's why I'm so involved in these four activities and these three clubs. Instead, he fell into the. I really like sports, so I assume I should do something in college related to sports, but I'm not actually doing anything right now to prove or disprove this claim. This is where interest probing comes into play. First off, in our discussion, after a bit of back and forth about how he thought his interest in sports might translate into a career, I discovered that his student life, the idea of becoming a sports agent, that life sounded interesting to him. If you've seen the movie Jerry Maguire, you'll remember that sports agents typically represent professional athletes on all manner of legal issues contracts, salary negotiations, brand deals, whatever the case may be. The student agreed that all of that stuff sounded really cool, and after thinking about it, I thought this might actually be a good fit for the student because in addition to being a great athlete, the student was gifted both quantitatively and verbally, which is a plus for a sports agent who needs to know the numbers for negotiating purposes and be deft at reading and analyzing complicated legal legal documents. So for the time being, we landed on sports agent as something that he should keep his eye on down the road and looking for colleges with sports management, sports, entertainment, sports marketing, sports law programs may be a good place to start in a year or two. The student happened to be a sophomore. Now, after these discussions, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves because we had found something that seemed to fit the student's interests and abilities and ambitions.

And in a year or two, they actually might translate into a college major or an eventual career path. Unfortunately, if you're not careful and if he's not careful, this is where the story typically ends. The student goes back to their normal routine. They play their sports, they watch ESPN, they watch House of Highlights on their phone ad nauseum, and they muddle their way through the next two years of high school. And then when it comes time to apply to college, they find themselves competing with thousands, maybe tens of thousands of other 17 year old males who are also good high school athletes who also like ESPN and are also interested in the same six colleges with top sports management programs. And so the competition becomes fierce. Luckily, this student is a prep dweller and he's not going to fall into this trap. Instead of just claiming that he's interested in sports or sports management or even becoming a sports agent, he's actually going to do something about it. This is called interest probing. Actually doing things related to the thing that you think you might be interested in. I know what a wild concept you mean. I can't just think about what I'm interested in and assume I'm interested in it. I actually have to do something. Yes. High school and college is when you should be testing out different ideas about what you're interested in to see if you're full of crap or not. And if you are indeed interested in a particular thing, you will revel in doing something about it. It will not feel like a chore. It will not feel like something you're being forced to do.

After all, you're the one who said you love this stuff. So this student and I together on the phone came up with a bunch of activities that he could do to prove to himself and prove to me, and ultimately prove to a college admissions officer that he has done more than just think about this. He has taken action. So to make this very practical, here are some of the ideas that we came up with related to sports, sports management, sports marketing. And we even went as far as thinking about what he might do to demonstrate an interest in becoming a sports agent. For one, why not take an online class in contract law that would give him a good little taste of what law is all about and introduce him to what a sports agent has to deal with. All the time, i.e. contracts. And we quickly found an online course put on by University of Michigan called Successful Contract Negotiation Essential Strategies and Skills Boom. And while he's at it, why not take an online course on data management? After all, statistics, standard deviation numbers and their analysis will be very important concepts for a sports agent to understand. Again, a 20 seconds search on Coursera turned up an online course titled Data Analytics in Sports Law and Management. Ding, ding, ding Jackpot. We also found an online course from Case Western University called How to Become a Sports Agent. Duh. Why would he not take that 30 hour self-paced class to see if that's something he's actually interested in?

I also asked him to find the best podcasts about professional sports representation. We quickly found one called Sports Agent Secrets with Edward Davis. What about searching for documentaries related to famous sports figures, their finances, their rise and fall, their wealth secrets, their pitfalls? We quickly found documentaries like King Richard about the Williams sisters, the tennis players and Air, about Michael Jordan. And if he's really ambitious, he might even spend the summer studying for the outside the S.A.T.. This is the test needed to get into law school. Do you think taking the LSAT as a 17 year old might get the attention of an admissions officer? This would obviously show that you're serious about your claims and you're actually doing something about it. I then recommended that he go to his high school athletic director and ask if he could do color commentary announcing for any of the athletic events, set up a microphone and call the plays of the game and maybe even stream it for that matter. Why not figure out how to stream video of any of the high school games online? Now, I'm sure he doesn't have any idea how to do that, but that's the point. He will have to learn. He'll have to figure it out. He'll have to get resourceful. And oh, by the way, he's going to start establishing some technical chops in the meantime. I also suggested that he start his own podcast on the topic of athlete representation.

We brainstormed for about 10 minutes and came up with a ton of episode ideas. Here are a few of them. How is Neal? That's name, image and likeness. How is Neil impacting high school athletes and where they choose to go to college? Boom, That's an episode. What are some of the best and the worst sports contracts ever signed? Boom, That's an episode. What about top ten Strangest clauses in a professional athletes contract. For example, Manny Ramirez, who's a baseball player, he went to Japan and in his contract, the team agreed to provide him with unlimited sushi at all times when he's in the country. Boom, That's an episode. How Social Media is Influencing contract Negotiations. Boom! That's an episode. Is a high school athlete better off financially if they skipped college? Boom. Episode. The pros and cons of Salary Caps Boom Episode. I think you get the idea. And imagine if this student actually created his own podcast about a topic he's most interested in and produced, I don't know, 10 to 12 episodes. And he figured out all the technology and he researched the topics and conducted interviews and did the audio editing, maybe even the video editing and marketed his podcast to the world. Even if no one ever listened to a single episode. This would be a huge win. This would be a massive undertaking that he would get a lot of credit for in the extracurricular activities section. I would consider this to be a major extracurricular activity that would presumably differentiate him from the crowd of other wannabes who say they want to be in the sports industry but haven't done anything to back that up.

Now, here's where the rubber meets the road. Now that he and I have sketched out all of these wonderful ideas, some more ambitious than others, a big question looms. Which ideas, if any, will he actually execute? Because, remember, all the stuff is great to think about and talk about and theorize about and write down, but it's quite another thing to act on it. And that's part of why we do this interest probing. Once you've identified an interest and come up with a bunch of fun, creative, ambitious and attention grabbing activities, that would provide a lot of evidence that this interest is more than just a pipe dream. The question will be, does the student actually do anything about it? If they do and they love it and they can't get enough of it. We've hit the jackpot. They will have a ton of extracurricular activities to put on that college application and they'll be off to the races if the student doesn't do any of these things. Despite how excited they were at the time, that's okay, too. What that means is that this interest of theirs probably wasn't all that interesting after all, because if a student can't come up with the motivation to do any of these things, even the low hanging fruit, like watching a documentary, then how could they possibly think that majoring in that topic would be a good idea or going into that field would be a smart idea? They're just kidding themselves. The proof is in the action. Does the student do anything about it? If yes, great. Move on. If not, then move on to something else that will or might motivate them enough to actually do something. This is the essence of interest. Probing. You have to give students a menu of activities that they could do to prove to themselves that they're actually interested in that particular topic and see what they do.

That's the probing part. Keep trying this method over and over until they find something that they will do on their own without the prodding, without the nagging, without the monitoring. Help them find their zone of genius. If you want me to go through this exercise with your teen and help them come up with a few areas of interest that they think are worth pursuing and help them build a set of action items that they can do to test out how interested they actually are. Please let me know. Reach out and we'll schedule a session and keep in mind, there's no downside here. Either We'll hit the lottery and find a path that energizes them and keeps them engaged in this alleged area of interest. Or we'll find that this was not a compelling enough interest to move them to action. And maybe they need to test drive something else that's called high school. Either way, this is a method that will give you more data to work with, which is always helpful when working with teenagers who often don't articulate their needs and their wants all that well. I would recommend giving it a try. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support. In case you didn't know, this podcast supports Prep Academy's online mentoring program where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me. Or 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.

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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.

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