Many new students when arriving at university are concerned about the academic questions they will be asked. To what extent was this event caused by that event? What is the value of X? What imagery is present in this text? This fear is, however, entirely misplaced. The real question dangers are those you will face from your fellow students, specifically the other freshers you will be meeting. However, whilst not academic in nature, these questions are not all created equally. I will be examining some of the common questions and their quality. I am not David Dimbleby, this is not Question Time. Let us begin.
Some questions are unavoidable; these are for essential information. “What’s your name?” A true classic: short, to the point and informative. I shouldn’t need to explain the importance of this. But I will anyway. There are only so many times you can call someone “mate” before they clock on. Overall, 10/10 question. You may proceed.
In a similar vein, “What are you studying?”, will reap some key information about the person, for example: are they on your course? Can they help you with coursework? Can you copy their notes if you miss a lecture? Crucial for university living. I’d give this bad boy an 8/10. A useful tool in your belt, but beware of reading too much into a degree someone studies. “Where are you from?” Again, inoffensive, concise and informative. If you know about their home area you are onto a winner. 7/10, it would have scored higher, but I’m bitter: nobody knows anything about where I am from.
You should avoid the next few questions when you make your first impressions. They are not inherently bad questions (other than the final one), but, as with anything, there is a time and a place for all. In my opinion, these questions are best suited for getting to know people later on, not when you first meet them. “How old are you?” Answer: 98% chance they are either 18 or 19, boring 3/10: move on.
Next, a personal pet peeve of mine: “What school did you go to?” Do not bother unless you know the 3,000+ secondary schools in the UK. You probably won’t know anything about their school; you’re not Ofsted, stay in your lane. There’s only one school I care about if you’ve been to and that’s Hogwarts. 1/10, wingardium levi-ask-better-questions-osa.
Now, I love arguing with strangers as much as the next person (please follow me on Twitter @mellornator) but discussing topics that split opinion – regardless of finesse – is best avoided. In general: politics, religion, personal finances and more controversial topics, such as whether the jam or cream goes on top of a scone first, can be left until you know people better. 2/10 question, don’t alienate people.
Lastly, a troublingly common question, “What is your star sign?” This has nothing to do with freshers, I just think it’s important to point out this is a stupid question, 0/10.
To get to know your fellow student, keep in mind the following key points. Find out the essential information for the future, such as their name. Avoid divisive topics – not everyone is comfortable talking about them. Ask open-ended questions that you can expand on and follow up. If you heed this advice, before you know it you’ll be having great conversations in no time. That is of course until you inevitably start avoiding people in about Week 5.