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ACT Profile Aims to Help Students Find Career and College Direction

ACT Inc. launched a new interactive website today to help high school students explore possible career paths and college options that are a good match with their individual strengths, interests, and values.

ACT Profile is a free service offered by the Iowa City, Iowa, testing organization, and officials hope that high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors will use it in conjunction with their school counselors to help in the college-search process.

"It's an online guide that is a starting point," says John Corrigan, vice president of customer experience, corporate strategy, and marketing for ACT. "This primes the conversation with a counselor, parent, teacher, or mentor."

The site includes interest inventories, a section for students to search colleges based on their personal criteria, such as size and location, and a place for students to upload their work and establish an electronic portfolio.

Under the "insight" tab, students can take three different inventories to help determine possible careers. The interest quiz includes 72 photos and descriptions of activities such as using a microscope, writing a story, or helping someone make an important decision. Students indicate if they like, dislike, or are indifferent to it.

In the values section, there are 22 situations presented in which students respond if it's somewhat or very important to them if they work, for instance, in an office, outside, or with the public. The ability inventory asks students to rate their skill at tasks from communication to scientific problems to organization.

After completing each inventory, the ACT profile displays a circular career map with dots that indicate certain fields that align with students' responses. At the core are four areas: ideas, people, data, and things. Around the perimeter are six broad career cluster: arts, social service, administration and sales, business operations, technical, and science and technology. When students click one of highlighted dots, the suggested field and several occupations pop up. Once they choose, students are given a snapshot of the education required, salary, growth, and other details about that career path.

Students who have some early career direction and find a good college fit are more likely to complete a degree. ACT Profile is intended to give students a personalized tool to help them better understand their options at a time when stakes are higher with tuition rising, says Corrigan. Eventually, ACT would like to roll out a version geared for college students who may want to explore various career paths.

Individuals can sign on to ACT Profile through their Facebook or Twitter accounts on their computer, phone or tablet. ACT is promoting the site as a "social college and career planning community" where they can share the results of their searches with others to foster discussion. However, sharing online is optional, and users' privacy is protected, adds Corrigan. ACT profile is available for free to anyone older than 13.

Last year, the College Board launched its own interactive website, Big Future, to help students navigate the college-search process.

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