Measuring Interests to Aptitudes – Finding a Direction

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My son turned 21 in May. He is attending a local college and getting all F’s.  He seems depressed and lost. He likes computers but has difficulties passing the classes required for computer technology. Any ideas will help because we are out of plans.

From Pete: My Personal Interests Matched Against My Aptitudes

In my eighth grade year I had lots of problems. Many of these were no longer caused by my LD issues, but more by my ADHD issues.  During that timeframe I saw a counseling psychologist.

At one point, he administered a battery of psych tests. Two of these tests were related to my own personal interests matched against my aptitudes. Additional testing indicated…

During my undergrad years when I was majoring in psych, we took some psych tests as part of a course.  These tests again measured interests to aptitudes. Two of the tests were the same that I took when I was in the eighth grade.

Later, when I attended grad school in psych (had 30 grad hours, didn’t finish, went to law school instead) we had to take some tests. Again, two of these were the same two tests.

Ten Year Comparison of Three Test Batteries

My parents kept the test results from eighth grade and the testing in college.  I had the most recent results. I compared all three sets, administered over approximately a ten year period.

They were all right on the money.

From the first to the last, it was uncanny and almost unnerving how their data and predictions for future success related to interests and aptitude had a direct hit. And yet, until that point in college with the third battery, I was convinced that the first two sets of data were wrong.

Assessing Strengths, Weaknesses, Aptitudes Compared to Interests

In later years, I was a criminal defense attorney representing wayward youth who had no direction and were aimless. I referred these kids to a counseling/vocational psychologist  for an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes compared to interests.

Then with those test results in hand and the youngster moving in the right direction, by the time we got to the final dispositional hearing ( i.e., whether the youngster was to be incarcerated or placed on probation), we already had a plan in place that was working.  The youngster had a new improved self-concept as he/she was accomplishing something of significance.

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

Those were the only two tests out there in those days and newer batteries may be better.

Get the Data First

Bottom line: Like so much in life, before trying to create a treatment plan, get the data first.

So often my former clients thought that they knew their strengths, weaknesses and interests, yet they were wrong. The data helps to refocus in a better direction.

I came within a hair of flunking out of college and was off and on depressed. I was on probation more semesters than I was off.  But things turned around in my junior year when I fell in love with psychology and began working with juvenile delinquents at a juvenile training school. Life began to have more meaning. Until then, my parents lost many many nights of sleep.

Good luck.


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

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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.

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.


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.


“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!


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

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!