Home from College? 7 Awkward Family Question Do’s and Don’ts

family gatherings home for the holidays home from college Apr 15, 2021



Ah, Christmas. A time to close the books, binge some Netflix, enjoy some holiday treats, and see family and friends again.


Well… maybe that last one’s not so relaxing.


No matter how many years you’ve been in school, coming home from college means getting asked the same questions 5,000 times, too. Only you know how to best respond to each inquisitive mind, but here are some of our tips to prepare for the most common (and uncomfortable) questions.


"How's school?" 

(The inevitable question when you come home from college)"?



Don't: Say, "Fine, how's your retirement planning going? That’s all boomers think about, right?"


Do: We’ve all been asked this question a million times, but somehow we never have a good answer for it.


Coming home from college makes you realize how much you’ve experienced—but somehow this question just makes your brain just goes durrrrr


Try to narrow down one or two unique characteristics about the past term:


  • Were your classes harder?
  • Did you make friends you really click with?
  • Did you move off-campus for the first time?


And so on.


But hopefully, your family member will follow up with a better question.


"What will you do with that major?"



Don't: Fling your mashed potatoes in your family member's face and rant about how underprivileged the humanities are.


Do: If you're not sure yet, talk about what you like about your major. Hopefully, expressing elements of what you like about your major will help your family member sense your passion for the subject without forcing you to have your whole future planned out


You may also want to remind your family member that many people don’t always end up in a career related to their major, so right now, you’re doing your best and letting the future unfold.


"Do you like your roommates?"



Don't: Dump your dirty underclothes on your family member's bag and see how they like that.


Do: If you do, great! Tell them how good it's going.


But we know roommates can be real hit-and-miss, so if you don’t like your roommate and aren’t comfortable sharing, don’t get too detailed. Talk in more abstract terms, like "Other people just have different hygiene habits sometimes" instead of "Ugh, they throw their underwear on my backpack all the time."


To steer the conversation in another direction, you could try asking your family member how their experiences living with other people were. People do like to talk about themselves, after all—and if they don't want to share, well, now they know how you just felt!


Of course, if your family member will take an honest, "I don't want to talk about it," even better.


"How are your classes?"



Don't: Lecture your family on Plato's Republic for the next fifty minutes so your family members can decide if they like your classes.


Do: Try to think specifics in response to this vague question. Here are a few options:


  • The newest and most interesting things you've learned
  • What you like or dislike about your professors
  • If you're taking classes with any friends

"Are you dating anyone?"



Don't: Pull up your hot classmate's Instagram profile pic and tell your family member, "It's getting real serious—we pass by each other everywhere, like, the library and the dining hall," and then start making out with your phone to make your family member see how uncomfortable they're making you.


Do: As always, if you're comfortable sharing, go right ahead! But this question can open a lot of cans of worms, so, we're sorry if you get this one. Recognize that your family member does want the best for you and just wants to know more about something important to you.


If you're not ready for that, hopefully, you can be direct with a kind but firm, "I appreciate you looking out for me, but I'm not really ready to share that yet."


Need a more roundabout exit route? Try saying that you're focusing more on other areas in life, like your studies, career, friendships, and more. Anyone who knows anything about dating knows it takes time, and you don't have a lot of that right now, so people ought to understand.


And if they can't respect that a relationship might not be your top priority, well... just do your best to redirect the conversation. Or hit the bathroom.


"So, did you run into the Freshman 15?"



Don't: Say "Yeah, guess that goes for both of us, huh?"


Do: Recognize that weight isn't a sensitive subject for everybody. If it isn't for you either, hopefully there are no problems with this question!


If it is, we're really sorry if you get this fastball—it's just rude, for one, and particularly insensitive if you struggle with food or weight. If you don't feel safe talking about your weight, again, gentle directness is the best first option.


If that won't work, you could try a dodgy "Well, the food wasn't that great..." or "I did hang out with my friends in the dining hall a lot..." and steer towards a subject like dorm food quality or dining hall shenanigans. Or, as always, you can take a bathroom trip.


"What do you plan on doing after graduation?"



Don't: Treat your family member to a first-hand experience of your gnawing existential dread by screaming in their ear for the next forty minutes.


Do: Focus on your current or past preparations for life after graduation! Talk about how you've polished your LinkedIn profile, drafted a resume, or written your first cover letter.


Haven't done any of those things yet? Bring up what you're passionate about, what you're good at, or what you've enjoyed about certain subjects at school. You'll give your family member an idea of your current trajectory without having to have all the details planned out.

Awkward conversations can be even worse than finals, but we’re here for you.



We’ve all been there with family and friends asking us questions we’d rather not answer. Commiserating with classmates or college friends can help you know you’re not alone (especially because we guarantee they’re all being asked the same questions).


Having community support helps no matter what you’re going through: awkward questions, frustrating job searches, or exhausting workloads. And group coaching helps you chart a career course so you can answer awkward questions with confidence. Read more to learn about how coaching and community can accelerate your career growth!


Parents asking what you want for Christmas when you’re home from college? Ask them for a Career Cram subscription, or contact us today with your questions about it!

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