How to talk to a senior about college

Talking to a senior about where they're headed to school can be tricky. Before you dive into a convo about dorm life, read this.


College Counselor Mrs. Codie Moss conferences with soon-to-be senior Alana Brader.

Olivia Elisha, Staff Writer

There are two types of seniors when it comes to bringing up the topic of college (what their plans are, where they’re going, what their major will be, etc.).

Type one: the seniors who are super excited about the college they’re going to and have a plan for what they want to accomplish in college and in life. They can’t wait to leave and they’re ready to spread their wings and fly.

Then you have type two: the seniors who don’t know what college they want to go to or what they want to do in with their lives. They’re nervous- possibly anxious- and just the thought of college sends them spiraling.

If you’re talking to a senior about college, you have to choose your words carefully. There are certain ways to talk to them about this topic, and certain aspects to avoid if you want to steer clear of awkwardness.

When starting a conversation with one of these seniors, be prepared for two reactions you could receive. If you run into a “type one,” they may be so excited that they’ll talk for hours (the usual: finding their roommate, what they want to major in, etc.). They’ll guide the conversation, and likely ramble until you stop them. As the initiator of the convo, you’re interested in the beginning but you soon realize that you are stuck for who-knows-how-long talking about a school you realize you don’t care that much about.

This can (and will) leave you feeling disinterested, but do your best to stay supportive and engaged. They’re passionate about it, so let them express their excitement, even if you don’t share that level of enthusiasm.   

You’ll get the opposite reaction from “type two.” When asking about college, these upperclassmen get anxious.

I happen to fall into this category. I don’t know what I want to do in college and I’m not thrilled with where I’m headed, so when friends and family ask me, I tend to shut down and answer in as few words as possible. I don’t want to be rude, but I also don’t want to think (again) about not knowing what I want to do.

This is common for many seniors: the thought of college stresses stresses them out, and even the simplest questions can makes us feel bombarded and uncomfortable.

I don’t want it to seem like you can never talk about college with the seniors in your life, but my advice is to start simple. Ask what college they’re attending, or where they would like to attend. After getting an answer, see how they respond. If they say that they “don’t know,” it’s safer not to force the conversation and let them take the lead so they can talk about what they’re comfortable talking about. If they start to talk about what they’re interested in studying, or what they’re excited about, then let them talk about that.

If they do share the college they’re attending, keep it simple and read their reaction. Ask follow-up questions to their responses, or if they seem to disengage, change the subject completely.

As a senior, I have friends that are type one and type two. Talking about college can be fun, but if you notice that someone is disinterested (either you or the senior), try and end the conversation casually or change the subject.

Seniors don’t mind talking about college when we know we’ll be happy where we’re going, but if we’re not at that point yet, pick up on it in the conversation. As always, be a good listener.