ACT Profile: A Free College and Career Planning Tool from ACT
By Marilyn Maze and Gail Laferriere
ACT Profile is a new free, online tool that helps students answer the college and career planning question: “What do I want to do?” ACT Profile delivers inventories of Interests, Abilities, and Values, used together to suggest relevant occupations and majors. The suggested occupations and majors lead to high quality information developed using the best government and private sources. ACT keeps this data up-to-date so you can be sure your clients will receive accurate information. ACT Profile is changing the way students plan for college and career by allowing them to share resources and plan activities with peers and educators.
ACT Profile includes a number of features not traditionally included in college and career planning programs. Accounts belong to the individual, for life. In order to be sure people don’t forget how to log on, ACT Profile takes advantage of social media credentials (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) to identify individuals, so people can return any time in their life and pick up where they left off. Also, individuals can build a digital portfolio of relevant documents, photos, and videos to highlight strengths using Pathbrite. Pathbrite is web-based, so users can share their portfolios with prospective college admissions officers and employers if they so choose.
How does ACT Profile work? Students, parents, and counselors can create their own ACT Profile account by going to www.actprofile.org on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. After signing up and creating a profile, self-assessments are available to help pinpoint unique interests, values, and abilities. The assessments lead to interactive career and major maps.
Personalized Career and Major Maps
The personalized Major Map is based on the individual’s interest inventory responses. The map contains groups of college majors. By clicking on a college major, the student receives extensive information about typical required courses, attributes for success, and types of schools offering that major.
The Career Map is personalized based on the student’s responses to the abilities and values inventories in addition to the interest inventory. To further clarify career choices, careers are divided into 26 different areas. When students click on a career area in the Career Map, they see a list of careers, and when they click on a particular career, they see extensive information about tasks, training, salaries, and much more associated with that career.
From here, students can “favorite” different careers, majors, military careers, and schools to quickly revisit an area of interest later. When students return to the personalized insights page they can check the alignment between their selections and their education plan. Not only can students explore options and save favorites, they can also share them with others within ACT Profile.
Expanded counselor features are currently in development. The new features aim to aid counselors in using ACT Profile to connect with their students, view their students’ personalized insights, and better guide them in their college and career planning. The social aspect has been adapted for counselors through the use of a counselor “role” with special privileges and dashboards, allowing counselors to see students’ inventory results, favorite majors and occupations, and more. These features will evolve and new features will be added as more counselors use ACT Profile and provide feedback. Counselors interested in testing counselor features can email ACT Profile at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an invitation.
Current and prospective students at North Idaho College have been using ACT Profile for over a year now. We first schedule a follow-up appointment for each student, then we give them access and ask them to complete the interest, abilities, and values inventories before we meet. During the meeting we guide them through exploring options on the Career Map indicated by their inventories and have them save favorites. We show them how to use the tool bar to quickly access saved favorites, to add related majors, and to find the excellent summary under Insights. These are the components of the ACT Profile that our students seem to appreciate the most. They also appreciate that it is a tool they can return to again and again. It is theirs.
We administered learning outcomes surveys to students who used ACT Profile in 2013. Both the anecdotal evidence and survey results indicate that students find this tool to be extremely beneficial. We asked whether their experience with the ACT Profile and follow-up counseling helped them move closer to identifying an appropriate career direction, and also how they would rate the degree of information they now have about themselves or the world of work, and how that relates to their career direction. The average responses were 4.4 to 4.5 on a 5 point scale, with 5 being the highest. ACT Profile has become an integral part of our work to provide the best career planning services that we can to our students and prospective students.
ACT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. ACT provides a broad array of assessments, research, information, and program management solutions in the areas of education and workforce development. For more information on ACT Profile, visit www.act.org/profile.
Marilyn Maze, Ph.D., is a Principal Research Psychologist for ACT, Inc., and one of the developers of the ACT Profile. She is the Treasurer of NCDA and the Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Career Development Association. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Maryland Career Development Association in 2010. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Gail Laferriere, MS, LPC, NCC is the Assistant Director of Career Services and Career Counselor at North Idaho College where has worked for 20 years. She was the Idaho Counselor of the Year for 2013 and the first chair of the Coeur d’Alene Chapter of the U of I’s Counseling and School Psychology Advisory Council. She serves on her college’s Diversity Education Committee, serves on the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, and her expertise is often featured in newspaper articles, on radio, and television. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.