Stop bugging high school seniors with questions about college

Give high school seniors who are stressed to the max a break — find something else to talk about.

It’s been 25 years since my senior year, but watching my son experience the stress of college admissions is bringing it all back again. Since universities across the country have different decision dates, many students are stuck still not knowing what the future holds for them.

If you encounter a high school senior this year, here’s a list of things I encourage you not to say:

1. Where are you going to school next year? (Many students don’t know yet because they are still waiting for admittance information. Asking them this question is like jabbing a needle into an open wound of stress.)

2. I would never go to State College X. That’s a party school. (All colleges have parties. I went to Stanford and attended my share of ragers.)

3. What do you mean, you’re not going to college? (Trade schools, military service and taking gap years are all valid options.)

4. Community college isn’t the same as “real” college. (Some of the smartest people I know graduated from community college and went on to wildly successful careers.)

5. How are you going to afford Expensive College X? (That’s between the student, their parents and the financial aid office.)

6. Choosing dorm life is a waste of money when you could be living at home. (You have no idea what this 18-year-old needs.)

7. You should be living in a dorm instead of staying at home. You can’t truly experience college unless you live on campus. (I repeat: you have no idea what this 18-year-old needs.)

8. Going to Prestigious College X is a waste of money. You should go to a cheaper school instead. (Unless you graduated high school as your class valedictorian with 90 college credits and straight As, you don’t get a vote on this one.)

9. Liberal Arts College X won’t prepare you for anything. (Smaller classrooms and more opportunity to engage with professors are huge draws. How exciting!)

10. Those classes at Big College X will be so gigantic you won’t learning anything. (People have learned in lecture halls for centuries.)

This list might make you wonder, “Well what the heck can I ask an 18-year-old the next time I see them?” Don’t worry, I have three questions you can fall back on.

1. How are you doing?

2. Do you have any fun plans for summer?

3. Are you excited about registering to vote?

If they bring up college, trade school, military service or a gap year, great. Let them lead the conversation. Otherwise, please, for the sake of all these high school seniors out there who are stressed to the max, find something else to talk about.

Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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