Deflecting the Q & A of the Holiday Dinner Table

Q & A, in this instance, means Questions and Advice, just what your college or high school student does not want to deal with at the holiday dinner table. But it’s almost inevitable, as the extended family gathers and wants to hear where your student is going to school, what they’ll major in, or how that first semester of college has been going.

Jeff Selingo has written two of my favorite books for college parents, There Is Life After College and Who Gets In and Why. I recommend them any time I can. So when I saw Jeff’s Instagram reel sharing his response to parent questions about the Question and Advice dilemma, I knew it was worth sharing.

The first question was from the parent of a high school senior who wanted to know how his son could deal with all of the inevitable questions he knew he’d get about the colleges he’s applied to. Jeff’s advice was spot on. He suggested turning the conversation around and asking the inquiring relative about their experiences. Where did they go to school? Where else had they applied or considered? Why did they make the choice they did? What had they learned from the process or what did they wish they had known earlier? Was there anything they might have done differently?

We all love to share our stories and our life wisdom, so this technique could give your student some relief, turn the spotlight on someone else – and your student might learn a few things along the way.

The second question that Jeff answered was about what to do if your student comes home for Thanksgiving and is already talking about transferring to a different school. In this case, Jeff shared some things you might ask your student to help them think about whether they might be rushing to judgment too quickly. Have you really given the school a chance in only a few weeks? Think back to a year ago, what were you looking for in a school and how did you want it to be different from high school? Why did you choose this college in the first place? What have you enjoyed so far – and what has not gone well? Are there any things that you liked that you could double down on or lean into, or are there any easy fixes?

A transfer to a different school may still happen, but helping your student think critically about their experiences so far may make a difference. Giving it one more semester might be a good idea.

Holiday gatherings can be wonderful – and also stressful on so many levels. If you have a chance while the turkey is roasting, and before the relatives arrive, help your student think through some options and strategies for those inevitable questions. (And if Thanksgiving has already come and gone, you have even more time for conversations before the next holiday gathering.)

Thanks to Jeff Selingo for his quick video advice. If you’d like to dig a little deeper into what Jeff has to say, check out our reviews of his two books – and maybe add them to your holiday gift list!

There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions

Related articles:

Don’t Talk to Your Student This Thanksgiving!

Is College Transfer the New Normal?

Parenting Your College Transfer Student: Navigating the Decision, the Process, and the Transition

College Parents, Hold That Advice!

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