What Not to Say to a High School Senior

For many of us, it has been quite some time since we were seniors in high school. For those that have not recently guided a budding adult through this time, here are a few things to think about the next time you encounter a high school senior and strike up a conversation.

Remember that the world is full of possibilities and no two life paths are ever alike. There are kids who know what they want to study and where they are going to school before Christmas of senior year, but this is not the norm. College is getting harder to get into, the cost is rising at an insane rate, and besides that, college is simply not the right choice for all, immediately after high school or maybe ever. 

Here are some situations that may be happening...

  • They might be deferred and on wait lists and not sure where they stand. This is happening more and more. It may be April or May until they know all their options. 
  • They may have gotten into their dream school, but the cost is simply too high and it does not make financial sense to attend.
  • They may want to work and try and take time to figure out what they might like to do as an adult.
  • They may have decided to take a gap year to travel, volunteer, and learn more about the world around them.
  • They may want to learn a trade and are trying to find the best way to do that. 
  • They may have decided to join the military.
  • They may be making the choice to forgo a school far away in order to be close to home for a sick family member.
  • They may not have been accepted into the program of their passion and are going to take a year to build their credentials and try again.
  • They may be a talented athlete who devoted their life to a sport they love, but playing at a college level is not working out like they had hoped. 
  • They may be dealing with health issues.

There could be a hundred other things going on that we don't know about.

So, please, do not ask them "Where are you going to college?" I know you are just being polite and genuinely excited and happy for them, but this innocent question may add to the stress and anxiety they are already feeling.

There are so any other ways to engage with this awesome person that allow them to guide the conversation. Here are some suggestions. Obviously, these are just suggestions, and circumstances vary widely based on how well you know the person, but hopefully you get the gist. If a question is truly open ended and they can tell you care, you can read a lot from their body language and follow their lead. 

  • Are you excited for graduation?
  • Are you enjoying senior year?
  • How are you doing?
  • Congratulations, this is a huge milestone! How are you feeling about all this?

Kids are working through tough choices, hoping they are making the right one. We need to let them know that their choice is not the end all and be all of their happiness. Transfers, major changes, education breaks, finding new passions, and changing lanes happen ALL THE TIME. As adults, we know that, but the kids may not. They need to be reminded that it is ok to redirect if they discover the path they chose is not right for them and that their 

Please keep in mind that all this is just my opinion. None of this information is based on an official study or hard numbers. It is simply knowledge gained through many, many conversations with seniors and parents through our business making memory blankets, having kids in high school and college, and just being out and about in the community. 

The next time you run into a high school senior and start a conversation, please try to keep your mind open to all possibilities. You may be amazed at what you learn. 

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