Are We Asking Students the Right Questions?

January 15, 2022
By Leanne Soulard

Happy New Year! With 2022 officially underway, our calendars are filling up with appointments from juniors eager to get a start on their college admissions journey. I have always loved the energy that juniors bring to the process but I have learned over time that this energy needs to be channeled so students can create the space they need to be thoughtful and deliberate about the journey they are about to take. Otherwise, what should be a joyful rite of passage can quickly devolve into a lengthy to-do list that feels like a burden.

One way we can channel that energy is to change the questions we ask students. As well-intentioned adults, we often ask, what do you want to be when you grow up, followed immediately by where do you want to go to college to learn how to do that thing. That’s a lot of pressure on a young person! A more effective question to ask students, especially as they get started on their journey, is why they want to go to college.

Students go to college for different reasons. Some go because they feel it’s the best path toward making a lot of money, while others choose to go simply because they love learning. Some students choose a college based on career preparation opportunities like internships and co-ops, and others go for the social experiences or to gain independence. Some go because they want to play a sport at the collegiate level. The reality is that students can’t know where they want to go to college until they really understand why they are going; this understanding is at the very heart of making a great college match.

If you know a junior who is getting started on the college journey, don’t be afraid to ask them about their college planning values. Be direct and ask, without judgment, “Why are you going to college?” It’s okay if they can’t answer the question right away; it’s possible that nobody has ever asked it. When students are able to truly understand their motivation for continuing their education, they take ownership of the process and are able to make confident decisions about which schools will serve their interests best. Sure, students will still have a to-do list to get through but it’s always easier to tackle a list that you made with a purpose.

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