How To Talk To Your Classmates About College

I know that all of you are working diligently through your college applications during this time of the year, your friends are likely doing the same thing. Some of your friends may even be applying to the same colleges as you, making them “competition” from a college admissions perspective.

How should you approach conversations about college applications with your friends, especially if you are competing for admission to the same schools? In this post, we’ll walk through the do’s and don’ts of talking to your peers and classmates about the college application process without invading their privacy or causing tension.

Things You CAN Ask Your Friends When Applying to College

If the topic of college applications comes up, you don’t want to reveal too much about your own applications, but you also shouldn’t antagonize your friends by shutting them down if it comes up.

If you do have to talk about college with your friends, here are some conversation points that are safe to hit:

• Basic Application Requirements: It’s okay to talk about things like application deadlines, number of recommendation letters required, and other information that can easily be found online. In fact, it may be beneficial to clarify this basic information with your friends to ensure that you are both filling out the application thoroughly and correctly.

• Asking How They’re Doing: College applications season can be a stressful time for both you and your friends. Even if you don’t want to help each other with the applications themselves, you should still be there for your friends and make sure that they are handling the added responsibility well.

• What You’re All Looking For in a College: You don’t have to ask your friends what colleges they are applying to specifically, but you can ask them general questions about what type of school they’re looking to attend and what factors they’re taking into consideration when making their college list. Your friends could even bring up some aspect of college that you hadn’t thought of or help you weigh the pros and cons of each university you are considering. These all may influence your decision to apply or attend a college.

Topics You May Want To Stay Away From When Talking About Colleges

Even if your friend group tells each other everything, you and your friends’ academic and extracurricular profile along with your college application is private information. It may be tempting to talk about your college applications with your friends, but you risk losing your edge in the application process if your friends decide to steal your application ideas or essay strategies. So when you’re discussing college applications, you want to stay away from topics that are confidential.

Some of these topics include:

• Academic Performance: Everyone’s grades, class rank, standardized test scores, and other metrics of academic performance are their own business. You may not want to ask your friends for the specifics of their grades and test scores even if your school seems to value it by ranking all of you.

• What Colleges You’re Applying To: This will vary from person to person. Some people are comfortable sharing which schools they’re applying to, and if that’s the case you should see whether you two are applying to similar schools and use it as an opportunity to collaborate. Some people, however, prefer not to share where they are applying to college. If that is the case, you should respect their wishes. It’s often difficult to tell what a person’s preferences are unless they’ve told you, so it may be best not to ask which colleges they are applying to just to be on the safe side.

• Any Extenuating Circumstances: Extenuating circumstances such as a disability, a difficult financial situation, or a disciplinary infraction are often touchy subjects. You may be seen as insensitive if you pry into these matters with your peers. It is worth noting, however, that these special circumstances could affect a college admissions decision, so be aware if you have any of these.

• Financial Aid: As mentioned above, it’s okay to discuss financial aid with your friends as long as you keep the questions general. What you shouldn’t do, however, is try to get very specific things like their scholarship and loan list or ask anything too personal like how much money they were awarded. As a general rule, don’t pry into any information that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing yourself.

• Admissions Decisions: Eventually, your friends will share with you what college they’ve chosen. However, they may not be comfortable sharing which colleges they got into, which colleges waitlisted them, and which rejected them. If so, simply congratulate them when they tell you their final college choice and don’t push the subject.

I hope this helps and the very best for this whirlwind of a college season!