Finding a Direction: Personal Interests & Aptitudes

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

My son is 21 and attends a local college.  He likes computers but has trouble passing the classes required for computer technology. He gets F’s.  He seems depressed and lost.  Any ideas will help because we are out of plans.

My Personal Interests Matched Against My Aptitudes by Pete

Your description of your son reminded me of my story. When I was in the eighth grade, I had lots of problems. Most of these problems were caused by ADHD issues, not my learning disabilities.  I saw a counseling psychologist during that time.

At one point, the psychologist administered a battery of psychological tests. Two of the tests were related to my interests matched against my aptitudes . . . 

Years later, I majored in psych in undergraduate school. I took tests as part of a class. Two of the tests measured interests to aptitudes and were the same tests as those I took in eighth grade.

Several years later, I was in grad school in psych (had 30 grad hours, didn’t finish, went to law school instead). As part of the class, we had to take some tests. I took the same two tests for the third time.

Fifteen Year Comparison of Three Test Batteries

My parents had kept the test results from eighth grade and the results from the tests I took in college. I was able to compare the results of tests that were administered over approximately 15 years.

I was amazed. The findings didn’t change — they were right on the money.

It was uncanny and a little unnerving to see how the test data about my interests and aptitude and the test’s predictions for future success were so accurate.

Assessing Interests and Aptitudes

Until I took these tests for the third time, I was convinced that the first two tests were wrong. But results of tests taken in middle school and undergraduate school actually predicted my careers as an adult.

As a young adult, I wanted to work as a forest ranger because I thought that would give me lots of time to fish and camp. The occupations suggested by the interest and aptitude tests included journalism, counseling, ministry, and attorney.

During college and after, I worked part-time for a local newspaper. I worked as a juvenile probation officer for 10 years before law school.

After law school, I worked as a criminal defense attorney. Many of my clients were wayward youth who were aimlessly drifting and had no direction. I referred these kids to a counseling/vocational psychologist  for an assessment of their strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes compared to interests.

After I had these test results, I could help the kids start moving in the right direction. By the time we had the final dispositional hearing ( i.e., whether the youngster would be incarcerated or placed on probation), we had  a plan in place and the plan was working. The youngster’s self concept changed as he/she accomplished things that were significant..

The two tests I had were the Strong Vocational Interest Inventory and the Kuder Personal Preference Inventory.

These tests were the only ones available in the old days. Newer editions may be better.

Get the Data First

Bottom line: Like many things in life, before you try to create a plan, get your data first.

In most cases, my clients believed they knew their strengths, weaknesses and interests. Like me, they were wrong. Looking at the test data helped the individual take a deeper look.

When I was in college, I came within a hair of flunking out. I was on probation more semesters than I was off.  I felt depressed off and on. My life turned around during my junior year, when I fell in love with psychology and started to work with delinquents at a juvenile training school.

My life had meaning. Before that, my parents lost many many nights of sleep.

Good luck.


Re-edited from a post originally published 08/02/2010

You may also like….

Why You Need to Begin Transition Planning Early
What is my Parent Role in Transition Assessments?
Transition or Aging-Out at 22?

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
07/10/2019 10:15 am

I really like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It is the most widely used and most widely researched psychological assessment available. It is used for a variety of different purposes and is very popular as a vocational assessment. It is actually so much more than that. When I was learning to give it, of course I had to take it myself, and it is not hyperbole to say that it was life changing. It explained so much about me and actually gave me tools to use to help in my every day life. There are versions on the internet but they are not the real test – they are a combination of the MBTI and another one (the Kirsey) or a shortened form. Find someone who has been trained to give it and take your son. Good luck.

Sharon L.
08/02/2010 5:16 pm

My son would not be doing well in college if he did not have supports in place. Since he was on an IEP in high school the local college utilizes his accommodations and provides free tutoring services twice per week and he can take all of his tests on the computer with it reading to him and he can have a scribe if needed. In class the teachers must provide him with notes whether another student writes the notes on carbon paper and my son gets the bottom copy or the teacher has notes posted on the web page. Even with all of this my son needed twice a week outside support which we paid for. This year we hope he can use the free supports and not need the outside supports. Without this he would not be successful.

08/02/2010 4:30 pm

We are involved with a due process complaint. On numerous occasions I have been told by school staff that since we are involved in a conflict that it is not appropriate to communicate with me. I never talk about the complaint; it is specific to particular issues. I do need to talk to the school staff regarding ongoing programmatic issues, but I am told this is not appropriate, or “don’t call here, talk to your attorney, and have your attorney contact our attorney.” Please advise as to the appropriateness of this. I can’t find anything in the procedural safeguards that addresses this issue.

07/15/2019 2:07 pm
Reply to  Cynthia

“Have your attorney contact our attorney” – not a good use of an attorney’s time.

I expect the school lawyer told the administrators and teachers not to communicate with you while litigation is pending or in process. Lawyers worry about what could happen – i.e. if a teacher talks with you, s/he may express sympathy or tell you that things are worse than you thought, on and on.

If you have questions or concerns about program issues, write your concerns in a note or letter (written or typed notes are viewed more positively by recipients than email and are more likely to get an answer). This has a secondary benefit: if you write a letter and receive an answer, you are on firm ground if you need to fight over that issue.
Good luck to you!

08/02/2010 2:54 pm

I find your story inspiring and true to life. I am grateful to you for making this journey through the school years bearable and in the end rewarding…

my son is entering college with the accommodations he needs.

Pam Wright
07/15/2019 2:09 pm
Reply to  Colleen

Colleen, thanks for letting us know. I hope we helped you learn to advocate for your son. And I hope he learned from his mom!