How to Answer Your Family's Questions When You Are Still Unsure How You Feel About College

Parent’s weekend and Thanksgiving break are just around the corner. This might bring up a lot of feelings, especially if you're in your freshman year, like myself. On the one hand, we are excited to see our family, show them around campus and our favorite spots, and go home and sleep in our own beds. On the other hand, however, it can bring up a lot of feelings about family expectations. For me, at least, it feels like there is a lot of pressure to have the time of your life starting college; to have exciting stories about parties and all the amazing friends you’ve made, and your fascinating classes and professors. But as I’m realizing, during the first few months of college, most of us are not thriving. Sure, we’ve had some fun experiences, made some new friends, and tried some new classes, but it’s a really overwhelming time where we are trying to make friends and finding it more difficult than expected, trying to find our place and struggling, trying to figure out a major and realizing we now know less about what we wanted to do than before college. As of this point, I am still figuring out how I’m feeling, and I feel like a lot of others are as well.

This can make visiting family and coming home a little daunting. You might be seeing your cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents, and you know they want to hear all about your first few weeks. How much do you share? How do you answer their probing questions without sending yourself into a full on existential crisis? For me, planning ahead always eases my anxieties, so I am going to plan some common questions we might be asked, and brainstorm some good ways to answer them.

"Have you decided on a major?"

Most of the adults will be dying to know what you’ve decided on studying, as if you should know for sure by your second month of college. If you are like me, however, you’ve come to college and suddenly realized 20 more possibilities for pathways you didn’t know existed before. How do you tell your pragmatic, lawyer grandpa and helicopter parent aunt that you are still trying out a variety of classes before you decide on a major? I think the best way to do this would be to pick one topic you are interested in, and decide that will be your answer, rather than hemming and hawing about different possibilities. You can respond with something like, “Well I haven’t declared yet, but I am really loving my chemistry class,” or “I am very interested in the psychology department.” You don’t have to give them an exact answer, but giving them one specific topic that you currently enjoy will give them something to categorize in their minds as your path of study, and will likely satisfy their question.

"Can you make any money with that major?"

If you are like me, a humanities person, you’ve likely gotten this question way too many times. Us creatives often get judged for our major choices, especially from older family members. However, it would be ridiculous for us to know exactly what career path we are taking in freshman year. Just clear this up with your family by expressing how many different job opportunities can come that you don’t even know exist, and that you are focusing on finding paths that interest you right now. Some aggressive family members will never be satisfied, but just try to change the conversation; afterall, it isn’t really their business to tell you what or what not to study.

"Who is your best friend?"

Even though we meet and encounter hundreds of new people in the first few weeks of college, making close friends is a daunting task, and the idea of having a best friend after the first month is unattainable for many of us. We’ve met and made many new friends, but making a best friend takes time and it’s okay if we feel like we haven’t found our group yet. The problem with this question is it may bring up insecurities and comparisons to others’ experiences making friends, and this is not a good feeling. If you can’t think of someone to name when answering this question, try just saying “I’ve met a lot of awesome people, I can’t quite pick just one.” Even if this may be an exaggeration, it will be understood by the curious family member, and won’t urge them to pry about “why” you feel unsure about friends.

"Are you still dating *insert high school partner*?"

Thanks for reminding me of the pain, Grandma. This can be a very awkward question if you and your high school relationship broke up before or even during college. I have several friends still dealing with heartbreak and loneliness after saying goodbye to their long-term partner before college. This is pretty much a question we don’t even want to hear, so if you have a good relationship with your parents, maybe have them clear up confusion about your relationship status before you come home to be sure you don’t have to go through the awkward explaining.

"Why did you choose a school so far away from your family?"

Try to empathize with this question. A family member who passive aggressively asks this is usually coming from a place of loving and missing you. Even if you were eager to get out of town, do not tell them this. Just express your interest in the school you are attending, or wanting to explore a new city. If you want, ease their minds by telling them you miss them as well.

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