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“What Are You Doing Next Year?”: The Dreaded Holiday Question

You’re sitting at the table, enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving dinner and looking forward to a tryptophan-induced food coma, when it happens: one of your relatives asks, “What are you going to do next year?”

It’s a question that many high school seniors dread, especially around this time of year, as they anxiously await early action/decision results and are in the thick of completing applications for regular decision.  You’ve probably already talked extensively about this subject with your parents and immediate family members, and the last thing you want to do is rehash it with someone you only see once a year or so.  So, what should you do when a family member or other holiday guest inevitably asks about your college plans?  Here are some strategies:

  • Offer a generic answer, like, “I’m still exploring my options,” and then turn the conversation back to the other person.  Most people love talking about themselves, and many who went to college especially enjoy talking about that time in their lives.  Ask about the person’s own college experience: where did they go, what did they study, what are some of their favorite memories, etc.
  • Say, “I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.”  Hopefully that will indicate that you don’t want to talk about it further, but some people may see that as an invitation to ask more questions and/or offer advice.
  • As a response to the original question or as a follow up to the above scenario, say that you’re really stressed out about college and just don’t feel like talking about it.  Most people will respect that.
  • Say something silly or off-the-wall, like, “I plan to sail around the world, find a cure for cancer, and become the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”

In addition to giving one or more of the aforementioned responses, here are a few other things you can do to minimize your relatives’ questions:

  • If there’s a kids table, ask if you can sit at it.  Whoever is hosting likely will be thrilled to take you up on your offer.  Your youngest relatives probably could care less about your college plans, although you may have to do a bit of babysitting.
  • Enlist your parents’ help.  First, ask them to promise not to discuss your college plans during Thanksgiving break.  Then, if you’re not sitting at the kids’ table, sit close to your parents, so that if someone starts to badger you, your parents can interject and help put an end to it.  They can back up your “I’m really stressed” comment by saying they’ve agreed not to discuss the topic during the holiday, and they’d appreciate if others followed suit.
  • Talk so much that no one else has a chance to say anything.  Go ahead, talk with your mouth full if you need to.
  • If all else fails, start a food fight.  That ought to provide plenty of distraction.

Of course, some of these suggestions are intended to be funny as opposed to being real courses of action.  But in all seriousness, Thanksgiving should be a time that you enjoy — you’re off from school, you get to eat lots of yummy food, and hopefully you’ve done enough work on your college applications that you don’t have to spend the long weekend filling them out.  If your relatives start to pester you about your future and you simply don’t want to talk about it, be polite but firm.  They’ll get the message eventually.

Happy Turkey Day!

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