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Personalized Career & Academic Plans


Our life expectancy keeps growing! How many U.S. adults will reach the age of 90? 100? 120? Many seasoned adults remain healthy and active in their later years. Developmental scientist Paul Baltes found the secret. Based on his longitudinal research, he concluded that we are more likely to live longer and are more active throughout the lifespan if we maintain three goals, continue looking for opportunities that help us pursue those goals, and are ready to adapt and modify plans when faced with significant challenges. He called this the “SOC” model – selection, optimization, and compensation. (I know, we academics should stay away from creating acronyms!). Check out our CCD Center Founder, Leo Reddy, for an outstanding example of Baltes’ model!

My recommendations for designing Personalized Career and Academic Plans (PCAPs; also known as Individualized Learning Plans or ILPs) were designed with Baltes’ secret in mind. Quality PCAP programs help youth:

  • Identify life and occupational goals that reflect their emerging talent and skills (selection),

  • Pursue learning opportunities such as academic courses, early college, and work-based learning that will continue developing their talent and skills (optimization) and

  • Design postsecondary plans that include four options: high paying occupations they can enter directly from high school, training programs that lead to industry recognized credentials as well as both two-year and four-year degree colleges (compensation).

OECD’s Career Readiness report found that young adults navigate into high paying occupations that lead to social mobility when they participate in quality PCAP programs. That is because quality PCAP programs enable youth to develop higher future aspirations (selection) and clear plans for how they will pursue those aspirations (optimization). The OECD report is most noteworthy because these effects are strongest among historically marginalized youth and individuals with disabilities.

Check out OECD’s nifty infographic describing the results of their impressive career readiness research.

Check out our CareerReadinessGPS Resource Brief to find more resources to support your efforts to make the case for adopting PCAPs.


The CCD Center is an industry-led non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on making career readiness the number one education priority in America.


The BU Center for Future Readiness is internationally and nationally recognized for supporting the design, implementation, and evaluation of equitable and responsive career readiness programs and services.

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