<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=155486331574868&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

    Navigating the Future: Understanding Your Child’s Capacity & Desire

    5 Minutes Read

    Navigating the Future: Understanding Your Child’s Capacity and Desire

    Learning how to make the most of your time in high school can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. With so many options and decisions to be made, it can be difficult to know where to start. One way to help make this process a little easier is to evaluate and assess your student’s own capacity and desire. This evaluation can help you and your child to better understand what they are capable of, how much they can challenge themselves, what they will truly want, and how they can best achieve their goals.


    Understanding Capacity and Desire

    The first step in evaluating capacity and desire is to understand the two terms. Capacity refers to your student’s ability to handle the increasing responsibilities, demands, and challenges of life. In this case, to be more specific, it means being able to effectively and efficiently balance the ever-growing demands of high school, both from an academic and extra-curricular perspective while also being able to meet their various personal obligations. It includes factors such as your skills, knowledge, experience, and resources. On the other hand, desire refers to your student’s level of motivation and drive to pursue a particular goal or opportunity. It includes factors such as your passions, interests, and values.

    It is important to understand that capacity and desire are not black and white concepts with uniform definitions that can be equally applied to every individual. Every student is unique and capacity and desire come in varying degrees. Understanding how to identify where those lines are for your student will be an important tool that you can use to help your student grow and break through those limits.


    The Four-Box Analysis

    To help you to better understand your student’s capacity and desire, let's use a four-box analysis. Capacity is on the X axis and desire is on the Y axis. The four boxes represent four different scenarios, each with its own implications for your student’s decision making.

    Screenshot 2023-02-21 at 1.22.07 PM

    Scenario 1: High Capacity, High Desire

    Obviously, if your student is in this box, he or she is in a great position. They have the skills, resources, and drive to succeed in the pursuit of almost anything they choose to pursue. This is the ideal scenario, as your student will have the ability to take on increasingly challenging opportunities both in and out of the classroom and will have the motivation to see them through. When students are in this box, they should pursue their passions and interests with confidence, knowing that they have the capacity to handle whatever comes their way.  An important caveat here is to keep a close eye on your student as they continue to take on increasing levels of responsibility and challenge themselves both with their academics and extracurricular activities as everyone is unique and you do not want your student to cross a line that will induce significant stress and possibly impact their performance across their various pursuits.


    Scenario 2: High Capacity, Low Desire

    If you find your student in this box, he or she has the skills and resources to handle a particular situation, but they may lack the motivation or drive to pursue it. In this case it is important to help your student identify the things they enjoy most and help them to pursue them.  From an extracurricular perspective, colleges are not as interested in what students do as they are with what students make of the opportunities they choose to pursue. Afterall, colleges are looking to create incoming classes of students who will bring a wide range of attitudes and interests to campus as that is what will make for a vibrant campus community.

    Academically speaking, your student will have specific core and elective subject matter requirements that they will have to satisfy in order to graduate from high school. Your student may not love every subject they are taking and as a result may not be motivated to work hard or want to challenge themselves by taking more and more rigorous levels of a given subject. The key, particularly with electives, is to find those subjects that interest your student the most as it will put your student in a better position to succeed.

    Where the five core subjects of Math, Science, English, History and Foreign Language are concerned, in this scenario, there won’t be as much flexibility as with electives. Every high school has policies for how many years of each subject will be required. However, the more selective colleges like to see 4 years of commitment to each of the five core subject areas. Here, if your student is not particularly motivated to do the work in a particular course, it is important to reflect on what is holding your student back. Do they simply lack interest in the subject matter, or is there something deeper at play? Are they afraid of failing, or do they lack the confidence to succeed? Do they have the context to understand how these subjects help students to develop various foundational critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in life? Helping your student to look more deeply into these questions can provide important insights that will help your student get past many of the motivational challenges that can occur.


    Scenario 3: Low Capacity, High Desire

    If your student is in this box, he or she is motivated and driven to pursue particular opportunities, but your student may lack the skills or resources to succeed. In this scenario, it is important to assess whether your son or daughter is able to put in the time and effort to develop their skills and increase their capacity. If they are, then this can be a great opportunity for growth and learning. Here it is critical to monitor stress levels in combination with performance to help you make decisions about where you may be able to help your student strategically scale back so stress is reduced and to pave the way to success which will build confidence and lead to even more success on which they can build.


    Scenario 4: Low Capacity, Low Desire

    To better understand and address low capacity and low desire, it is important to take a step back and assess the root causes of these issues. For example, if a student lacks motivation and drive to pursue a particular opportunity or subject, it could be because the content is not aligned with their passions or interests, or because they have not been exposed to the right resources to help them engage with the material so that they can find a sense of purpose.  How teachers relate to there students is also important. It may be important to explore alternative curriculum or extracurricular activities that may align more closely with the student’s interests or work with your student’s teachers in school to address these issues.

    Another reason a student may lack motivation could be due to deeper issues such as self-doubt or lack of confidence. In this case, it may be helpful to explore counseling or other support resources that can help the student build their self-esteem and overcome these challenges. In terms of low capacity, it is important to assess whether the student simply lacks the necessary skills or resources to succeed. If this is the case, it may be helpful to provide them with additional resources or support to help them build their capacity. For example, this could include tutoring, access to study materials, or other educational resources.

    Ultimately, the key to addressing low capacity and low desire is to understand the underlying causes and work to find solutions that align with the student’s goals and priorities. This may involve a combination of exploring alternative opportunities, building capacity, and addressing any deeper psychological or emotional issues. With the right support and resources, students in this position can overcome these challenges and find success in their pursuits.



    In the end, while there is no silver bullet here, evaluating your own student’s capacity and desire can be a valuable tool in helping you to help your student make decisions about their future. By understanding their skills, resources, motivations, and passions, you can better identify opportunities that align with their unique strengths and goals. With this information in hand, you can make informed decisions that put them on the path to success.


    To learn more about the subtleties of the college admissions process, check out the guide that our college admissions experts put together to help you navigate all the criteria admissions committees look at.

    Second, if you are interested in more personalized guidance on how to manage the college planning and preparation process, PCC is here for you. Get in touch with Princeton College Consulting today.

    Return to all blogs