Questions to Ask College Students Home for Christmas Break

Going beyond the superficial will draw them out

Christmas Break
(Image: iStock.com/RapidEye)

This Christmas, when you’re visiting with loved ones and see college students home on break, what will you ask them? How’s school?

How well I remember my sisters and I noting that all our elderly aunts would ask us, “How’s school?” It’s great that they cared, and that they recognized the importance of academics. But I recently read a moving post by a high school math and science teacher, in which he challenges himself to come up with meaningful questions that would elicit thoughtful responses from his former students.

Perhaps this Christmas you can approach your relatives who are home from school on break with inquiries that will get them thinking—and perhaps generate real, substantive replies.

Here are his questions and some edited reasons for asking them:

  1. What is something beautiful you’ve experienced since you left our school?

My hope is that asking them to consider “beauty” (as opposed to something “good” or “fun”) will jar them out of pat responses and into sharing an experience that might have been more meaningful and thus provide more insight.

  1. Who is one person who has helped you figure out life after high school? What did this person do to help you?

College, career, and really most of life as a human hinges on relationships. It is not only about what but who. I want to hear about the various “who’s” that are impacting our graduates’ lives and perhaps more importantly what kinds of things those folks are doing for them.

  1. What is one thing you are doing to stay healthy?

So this may be a bit of a recommendation posed as a question.

  1. Tell me about a struggle or challenge you have overcome since you left high school. How did you do it? What resources did you use?
  2. Tell me about a struggle or challenge that you have not yet overcome or moved past? What have you tried that hasn’t worked? What do you think would be a good next step?

I want to know if my students can engage a problem, reflect on possible solutions, seek out resources they need, and evaluate the effectiveness of their strategy.

Can you think up some of your own? What questions do you wish relatives or family friends had asked you?

To read more, go to Education Week. And have a Merry Christmas!