This is the big question that a lot of high school seniors might be dreading for the upcoming holidays if they haven’t applied Early Decision, heard back from schools, or want to entertain questions about their college plans. All most students want to do is have a good time with family and not think about applications and the future for a minute, but this question will inevitably be asked, probably multiple times on multiple occasions.
Can you blame your family? This is certainly a decisive time for you, but also for them. Most of the time, your family has the best of intentions. They are either genuinely interested or making appropriate small talk. In any case, it’s important to keep in mind that less is more.
If you know the answer, say it loud and proud, but if you don’t, there are a variety of approaches that can dig you out of a sticky situation.
The “wait and see” approach
In this response, you can tell your family that you’ve applied to certain schools or are planning on applying to certain others and haven’t heard back yet. You should tell the minimum of information and especially avoid dwelling on your top choice when you don’t know the outcome yet. You can say that you’ll hear back soon and then can discuss it later. Pushing it off is a good way to get them off your case for the time being!
The “diversion” approach
When asked this question, you could strategically turn it around to whoever asked you. For example, you could ask them about how they made their college choices, what they majored in, what was important in their college decision and what they thought of their school. People love to tell their stories and this way, you can spark a new conversation and divert the attention away from you. In another subset of this approach, you can talk about what some of your friends are planning on.
The “general” approach
When totally in doubt, being general will be your greatest ally. You can talk about your interests, your research, and what clubs you might be interested in joining, without talking about any specific college names or dates or programs. Then you could even ask for “advice” from your family, asking if they could see you in such or such program. Be careful about asking for too much input from every family member, but in this case, the strategy is to start a more general conversation that gets you engaged with your interests, and not necessarily about the unpredictable future.
Everyone should expect such questions around holiday time, but no need to fear. Remember that at the end of the day, time is on your side. Decision day is still months away and college start date is even further away. Your decisions are personal and you don’t need to justify them to anyone. So kicking the can, turning the question around and being general are all good strategies to alleviate the pressure of this big life question.
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Neal Schwartz, Owner
College Planning of Westchester
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