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The Questions College Students Are Tired of Answering—and What You Should Be Asking Instead

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Earlier this year, during yet another awards show season, Reese Witherspoon started a very cool, feminist thing: She challenged reporters on the red carpet to #AskHerMore, i.e. ditch the default “What are you wearing?” question during red carpet interviews, and ask her and other female celebrities substantial questions like, “What accomplishment are you most proud of?” or “What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?” Now that back-to-school season is here, we realized the same thing often happens to college students. Post-graduates love to recycle the same, ‘ol conversation starters, and confession: They’ve overstayed their welcome! But don’t worry—we’re not about to leave you hanging. Below, allow us to offer some clarity on which questions, exactly, college students have answered a zillion times (often via four words: “I don’t know yet!”), and what will result in more fruitful conversation instead:

Frequently asked question: “What’s your major?

What you should ask instead: “What’s your passion?”

[Related: 9 Organizational Planners That Will Change Your Life]

Many college students—especially freshmen and sophomores—are still experimenting with what exactly they want to study long-term. Asking about their major is a stark reminder that they haven’t figured it out quite yet. On the other hand, asking, “What’s your passion?” allows students to talk about their interests and goals without feeling like they’re writing “computer programming” or “graphic design” down in stone. Start there and you’ll fast track yourself right into a fun, lively conversation.

Frequently asked question: “How do you like college so far?”

What you should ask instead: “What is your favorite thing about college so far?”

Going the “favorite thing” route may seem totally unspecific and informal, but that’s the point! It allows students to think instantly about what really lights ’em up. Whether it’s their favorite course, club, or Friday night diner—this question will kick off an epic college memories back-and-forth (so have your own ready!).

Frequently asked question: “What are your plans after graduation?”

What you should ask instead: “What do you know now that you wish you knew in high school?”

Beloved by family, friends, professors, and co-workers, but hated most by students is the “What are your plans for after graduation?” question. Other variations of the question often include, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “Where do you plan on moving after college?” *facepalm*

Talking about the future can be downright stressful, so flip it, and give college students a way to feel like they know a thing or two during a time of deep uncertainty. Odds are, it’ll create meaningful dialogue on important milestones—and might even remind this person that she’s been nervous before, and everything turned out OK.

Photo: PeopleImages/ Getty Images

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