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7 Questions to Stop Asking Your College Student

Posted by on Thursday, November 27, 2014 in College Life, General Information, Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break.

Upon being home for several days, it has dawned on me that not every conversation back home is created equal. As a college student wrapping up her second to last semester with a hefty 17-hour course load, campus job, internship, and plethora of extra-curricular activities, Thanksgiving and Winter Break are respites from school during which I look forward to doing absolutely nothing (read: doing puzzles and streaming Netflix). The reality of being home for college students, though, is that there are many acquaintances and high school friends’ moms’ cousins’ aunts to answer to when the barrage of career and education-related questions are inevitably hurled our way.

It’s good to ask university-folk about what they’ve been up to, but here are a few things to consider not asking around the dinner table this holiday. Your sleep-deprived college student will thank you.

Death by small talk.

1. How’s school?

This is the “How are you?” of college-related questions. No good. You’re not going to get any eye-opening, deep collegiate responses with a question this vague. College is fine, and we’ll leave it at that. Indicate that you want to know specific facts about our crazy-fun young adult lives. My cousins and I made this Vine last night to illustrate this point a little further:

What to ask instead: “How has this semester been different from the last one?” “Do you have a nemesis?” “Have you pulled any all-nighters yet?” “Have you learned how to cook anything besides toast?” These are the fun questions we’re excited to answer.

2. So, what are your plans for after graduation? How many offers did you get? Where are you planning on living?

The nebulous time period after graduation is a scary conversation topic that must be approached with caution. Especially if you’re talking with college seniors, they are likely in the process of tweaking their resumes, forcing themselves to network, interviewing, and weighing their options. Maybe their semester has been so busy with coursework that they haven’t had time to think about it. This question can induce MORE PANIC THAN YOU ARE READY TO HANDLE. The “Where are you planning on living?” question follows the same theme: we’re going to live wherever we can find a job. And we’ll get back to you when that happens.

What to ask instead: “What kinds of jobs are you looking at? Maybe I know someone in that field and can give you their contact information.” (If you can make the networking process any easier, we will be forever grateful.)

3. How are your classes?

There is nothing inherently wrong, per se, with this question — I just think it could be improved. If you want a response beyond a mumbled “good”, try asking about academics in a more creative way. If you ask me about the craziest thing I learned this semester, I’m much more likely to respond by telling you about how I know how to sign most zoo animals in sign language or how I can write “I love mom” in Chinese Calligraphy.

What to ask instead: “What has been your hardest class this semester?” “Are you best friends with any of your professors?” “Have any of your classes changed your mind about something you used to believe?” DEEP.

4. Are you graduating in four years?

Chances are, the response to this question will be a boring “yes” or or a boring “no”. Circumstances for not graduating on time could include switching majors pretty late in the game or staying for an extra year to get a Masters degree. 88% of Vanderbilt students graduate in 4 years, so if you’re talking to a Commodore like me, it’s probably a “yes.”

What to ask instead:”What’s your favorite thing about (insert school here)?” “Has the alumni association already started asking you for money?” That’ll get a pity chuckle every time.

5. Are you dating anyone? Why not?

If we are, great! If we aren’t, great! We’ll let you know if we think you ought to know.

What to ask instead: No.

6. How do you plan on getting a job with that major?

We will probably get a job by working with the Center for Student Professional Development, applying for jobs, and interviewing like everyone else. One step at a time, people.

What to ask instead: “Have you gotten to work on any interesting research?” “What kind of internships do they offer in that field?”

7. What do you plan on doing with your LIFE?

I don’t think anyone knows at this point, so why do you insist on inducing heart attacks.

What to ask instead: “Do you need a hug? I hear you have finals coming up.”

Your college student after you've read this article.

Let’s have the least awkward holiday season as possible, friends.

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