What to do after being asked “The Question”

Illustration+by+Isabella+Lombardo
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What to do after being asked “The Question”

Illustration by Isabella Lombardo

Illustration by Isabella Lombardo

Illustration by Isabella Lombardo

Illustration by Isabella Lombardo

Dean Griffin

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Here’s a scenario that I’m sure nearly every senior has encountered. You meet an adult for the first time, and they ask you what grade you’re in. Once you say that you’re a senior, their eyes light up, practically flashing a neon “ASK ABOUT COLLEGE” sign above their head. They probably say something along the lines of, “Oh, so what are you thinking about for after high school? Any colleges in mind?” You have just opened the floodgates of interrogation. If you’re like me, and you find yourself in this repetitive and tiring situation, you know how brutal this becomes.

If you find yourself having to explain your possibly nonexistent future plans to adults often, here is a step-by-step plan to avoid interactions like these.

Step 1: NEVER tell strangers you meet that you are a senior.

This is the most common mistake made by seniors. Telling anyone that you are a senior triggers instant questioning about your future plans. An alternative: market yourself as a sophomore. This works for me because I already look a little younger than most seniors, but you can pull it off, too. Start conversations with adults by complaining about something like AP European History or the PSAT. If circumstances allow, dunk your head in a tub of water before the conversation to make it seem like you’ve come from the swim unit. This always does the trick to ward off any potential questions about post-high school plans. And don’t forget to wear your keys on a lanyard around your neck to make sure everyone knows that you drive.

 

Step 2: Throw out any and all college swag.

One way to set off an FBI-like inquisition is to wear a sweatshirt, shirt, hat or even a keychain from a particular college. I toured University of Oregon last spring, and I bought a sweatshirt at their student store. Every time I wear it out of the house, people ask me if I am applying there or if I am currently a student there. So, I’ve begun to dig up clothing from my time at Bacich Elementary and Kent Middle School. I can then manipulate the conversation to talk about my glory days playing wall ball, my proficiency in STAR testing, and even my success as a WEB leader.

Illustration by Isabella Lombardo

Illustration by Isabella Lombardo

Step 3: If you are asked about the future, think of something witty to shut down the conversation fast.

A common loophole I’ve found is to make up some story about what I’ll be doing in the future. On any given day, I could say that I plan on living in my parents basement for the next 20 years playing video games. Sometimes I say that I want to attempt to swim across the entire Pacific Ocean, just because. This tends to leave my conversation partner so confused that they feel the need to change the subject. This is a surefire way avoid college-talk.

 

Step 4: Don’t get your hopes up if the person says, “I know you hate hearing this question.”

A situation that I have encountered is when the adult makes you think that they will spare you from the dreaded question about your future. Often, someone will start off by saying that they know that it’s a difficult question to answer, causing me to think, “Oh, great! They understand that it is quite draining and exhausting to talk about college all the time.”

However, more often than not this statement is followed with, “But what do you think you’ll be doing after high school?” This one hits hard because you think that you have gotten out of this conversation, but alas, you end up spiralling into your list of possible pathways for who knows how long. So, before they have a chance to say the actual question, cut them off. Start off with “I’m glad you can recognize that I hate hearing questions about college. I hate answering them!” You could then proceed to ask questions that you know they would hate to answer, too. You could ask about their salary, their love life, controversial political views, or really anything that they might hate being asked, too.

 

I know that talking about your future isn’t always a stressful experience. Sometimes discussing your aspirations can actually be enjoyable and exciting. Personally, the reason it becomes so frustrating is that strangers don’t necessarily have a right to know what you want to do immediately after meeting you. Additionally, the timing isn’t always the best to ask about what someone wants to do with their life after graduation. The other day, I had a meeting with my oral surgeon to discuss my wisdom teeth, and while she had tools in my mouth, she asked about what I planned to do after high school. If this were a rare circumstance, I believe I would have a better reaction to questions like this, but it’s become unavoidable. If you find it unavoidable too, I recommend following these steps to get you through. Otherwise, you might actually have to endure a slightly frustrating conversation – terrible, right?

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What to do after being asked “The Question”