Author Archives: Abbey Martin

10 Questions to Ask Graduating Seniors Instead of “What Are You Going to Do Next?!”

by Abbey Martin

Let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that there’s a lot going on for graduating seniors right now. Many of them are overwhelmed finishing their degree and planning for next steps in an uncertain post-graduation world. Certainly they are being asked the question, “What are you going to do next?” by many people, which has the potential to add to overwhelm. In your own interactions, why not change things up? Let’s support students and also bring some laughter and levity into the conversation.

Here are 10 questions that look to the past and future without the weight of long-term goals:

  1. What’s something that you loved doing as a kid that you still love doing as an adult?
  2. What are you most looking forward to reading, watching, or doing this summer?
  3. If you had a YouTube channel, what would be your YouTube personality or the focus of your channel?
  4. If you were going to open your own business, what would it be, and why?
  5. What was the best class you took in college, and why?
  6. What are you most proud of in the last year or two?
  7. What’s one thing you hope will continue even after stay-at-home restrictions are lifted?
  8. What goal have you achieved that felt really far away your first year in college?
  9. What album, book, or movie has shaped who you are as a person?
  10. How have you surprised yourself while in college?

We hope these questions spur your thinking of even more fun conversation starters.

If you are planning a conversation with the goal of helping a senior process their next steps, check out the article Supporting Seniors’ Post-Graduation Thinking with conversation insights from ASC student staff.

Supporting Seniors’ Post-Graduation Thinking

by Abbey Martin

Take a moment to think about how you might feel right now if you were a graduating senior. Would you be excited? Relieved? Stressed? I’d likely be feeling all of these things (and more!). I might also feel disappointed that I’m missing out on graduation activities I’d looked forward to, or be worried about finding a job after college—especially right now.

While “what are you going to do next?” or “What are your plans after college?” are common questions, these can feel overwhelming for students to answer. I reached out to ASC student staff and asked what they’d find helpful in a conversation about next steps after graduation. Here are some questions and ideas they came up with:

How can I support you as you prepare for graduation and what comes after?

An overwhelming theme students shared was wanting to feel supported and cared for by faculty and staff as they navigate next steps. Some students would like to hear about tools and resources for career exploration. Maria, a strategist, noted that she’d find it helpful if faculty and staff shared their experiences and what they would have done differently post-graduation. Others thought check-ins with a professor would help them prepare for next steps. What’s helpful can vary by person. The best way to know what each student wants or needs is simply to ask.

What fields, career paths, or positions are you interested in? Tell me all of the possibilities you’ve thought of.

Many students shared that they don’t know what field they want to enter after college. They also mentioned feeling pressure to have an acceptable answer for those who ask. Catie, an Academic Coach, shared, “Usually the question I get asked is, ‘What do you want to do?’ Getting asked that question so much kind of forced me to come up with a routine answer that wasn’t entirely accurate but was at least something to respond with. I think [it] also subconsciously discouraged me from having an open mind about other possibilities.” If students are not ready to name one concrete path, we can support them in their exploration process.

What aren’t you interested in?

Molly, an Academic Coach, shared, “[A] tool that really helped me in finding what I wanted was being asked what I didn’t want… It made narrowing down what I could potentially want much easier.” Students may not be ready to fully commit to one interest area, but they may have ideas for things they definitely don’t want. Exploring those can be a powerful form of self-reflection.

What do you want your next step to be? What do you need to get there?

Focusing on the big picture can feel overwhelming, but breaking things down into smaller, manageable steps can be helpful. Some students simply want to process those next steps aloud. Aarya, a Strategist, shared, “For me, the answer [of what I’ll do next] has always been broad. I want to eventually become a doctor, but what [happens before that] has been—and still is—difficult to answer because the path is long, and the end is still far out of sight.” Other students echoed this sentiment, saying they would find it helpful to identify more immediate next steps vs. only focusing on long-term goals.

Focus on Supporting Students

If you have the opportunity to talk 1:1 with a student and support their thinking, keep in mind that the most important thing isn’t always what question you ask; it’s how you ask it.  I’d encourage you to try one of these questions in your conversation. Remember to listen well, validate often, and empathize. Each student I talked to wanted to feel like they had people on campus who supported them and who would listen to and think with them. Let’s be those people!

Want ideas for conversation starters or more informal questions related to the excitement around graduation? Check out 10 Questions to Ask Graduating Seniors Instead of “What Are You Going to Do Next!?”