Awkward family conversations and how to navigate them: GPA, love life and social life

Everyone can agree that avoiding questions from family members during the holidays is easier said than done.

Everyone can agree that avoiding questions from family members during the holidays is easier said than done.

So the holidays are around the corner and you know what that means: nosy Aunt Edna and all of your well-intentioned family members will be at the dinner table anxious to grill you about your GPA, love life and social life in college. How are your grades? Are you dating anyone? What do you do on the weekends? Some of us would like to get through college with a little privacy — thank you very much — and for those of you who are with me on this, stay tuned. Here are some tips on how to handle some common scenarios.


Asking someone about his or her grades isn’t polite, but there’s always that one relative who will do it anyway. Of course, if you are a straight “A” student, then showing off is in order when it comes to family get-togethers. For the rest of us, the conversation about grades can be uncomfortable and sometimes downright annoying. Keep your cool. If your grades aren’t exactly up to par, or you don’t feel like sharing, then you can:

  1. Be coy and tell them that you don’t want to jinx your next exams since you did so well on your last one
  2. Say you’re meeting your own expectations
  3. Talk about only the classes where you are doing well
  4. Look them in the eye and let them know they should mind their own business
  5. Change the subject and ask them if they like the roast beef

Finally, if you want to sound rational and deflect the conversation from your own academic performance, try explaining that your GPA won’t really mean squat once you graduate (assuming you aren’t failing). Jen Glantz, in an August 19, 2013 post to, “Why your GPA doesn’t really matter,” explains her experience looking for a job post-graduation.

“So you got a C on a test that you could have studied a few more hours for, but instead, you stayed late at your internship to observe the CEO of the company deliver a presentation to investors. So what? You’re better off,” Glantz writes. Take some advice from the pros and don’t assume that your GPA reflects how much you’ve learned. We often learn more outside the classroom and GPA doesn’t always measure this. 

Social life

Maybe you like to go to Vegas on the weekends with your buddies and hit the clubs…a lot. Perhaps you are a secret bass player for a heavy metal band, or maybe you just don’t have a social life. This is your time to explore and be free, but explaining that to your extended family can be awkward.  If you don’t want to see raised eyebrows and would rather keep your hobbies to yourself, what do you do? The key here is to think about all of the essays you wrote about your extracurricular activities to get into college. Those are the things that people want to hear, right? It’s time to bust out that old list and, well, embellish a little. Check out Julie Manhan’s July 18, 2012 post, “What your extracurricular activities tell a college about you” to, and use them as fodder at the next holiday gathering. 

Dating life

The question on many inquiring minds at the family dinner table is whether you are in a new relationship. If you’re not, then that’s that. If you are, however, you have a lot of explaining to do. Again, why should this be public information? Especially if you haven’t been dating long. The way to keeping your love life under wraps is to just get to the point and stick with the facts. For example, there are a million fabricated stories you could tell about your new flame, but if you cut to the chase and give those pesky relatives what they want to know, you reveal only the information you want them to know. You sly thing you! Tell them where you met and have a picture (a headshot will do) ready to show. Especially when it comes to telling your parents, as Abiola Abrams writes in her October 6, 2012 post, “How to tell your parents you have a boyfriend,” in “A snapshot of him solo works just fine. It’ll help humanize the mystery guy so that they can stop imagining some scary dude stealing their little girl.” By taking out the mystery, you satisfy their curiosity and while they aren’t much the wiser, you have saved yourself from a potentially more embarrassing situation!

How do you handle awkward family conversations about college life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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