100 Questions You Can Use for “Intentional Conversations” in the Residence Halls

Intentional Conversations are one-on-one meetings between student staff and their residents guided by a suggested set of questions and prompts that are developmentally appropriate and situated within the context of a resident’s experience. This post is one of a mutli-part series examining and providing suggestions for residence life and education departments that utilize Intentional Conversations as an educational strategy. Posts included in this series are:

Intentional Conversations require that one examine student development and related theories to appropriately develop conversation guides. In the previous posts in this series, we examined Intentional Conversations as an educational strategy, discussed expectations and structures, and provided suggestions for developing a curriculum guide for student staff. In the following post, suggested questions, prompts, and topics are provided that can be used as a student progresses through their collegiate experience.

Intentional Conversations are, as their label describes, intentional. They are well thought-out, guided conversations. The following list is a generic set of topics and questions for Intentional Interactions based off of known student issues and concerns that frequently arise as one journeys through college.  Institutions should use these as starting points, but tailor individual questions and topics to fit their own unique student populations, contexts, and learning goals. Appropriately trained student staff members should be able to modify their conversations with residents according to the context of each individual student. Some topics may be more or less germane to an individual student based on their experiences and circumstances.  Personal identities may also play into these conversations and student staff should be mindful of this while not being leading.

The following suggestions assume a more traditionally-aged student population, but could and should be modified for a different student population or in a conversation with a particular student. Furthermore, a campus may wish to supplement these questions if a student participates in a specific living learning program, major, or holds certain identities. The questions and topics are presented here, chronologically, organized from a student’s first semester in college through their graduation.

 

First Year Student Conversations

Early Fall

For this conversation, focus in on the resident’s transition to living with a roommate, their academic performance, and their college experience overall. Help them set some preliminary goals and ensure that they are connected on campus and getting involved. Pay attention to warning signs of homesickness, poor choices regarding alcohol and health-related habits, and lack of involvement on campus and in the community.

When taking notes on your conversation, highlight the resident’s roommate relationship status, any transition issues, and their goals for the semester.

Opening Questions:

  • What goals do you have for the semester?
  • What do you like about living on campus? What do you dislike?
  • What has stressed you out so far?
  • What has been the most positive and the hardest part of your transition to college?

Theme: Homesickness

  • How has it felt being away from home?
  • How do you maintain connections with friends and family that are at home?
  • What has been your biggest struggle since coming to college? How did you handle it? What could you have done differently?

Theme: Transition to College-Level Academics

  • How have your study habits changed since you started college?
  • Have you received any grades or feedback yet in your courses?
  • What courses do you think you will do well in? Find more difficult?
  • Have you chosen a major? How is the coursework in your major going?
  • Have you developed any relationships with faculty members?

Theme: Building Community and Making Friends

  • Do you feel connected to the campus community?
  • What kinds of new connections and friends have you made so far?
  • How is your relationship with your roommate? Did you complete a roommate agreement?
  • Have you experienced any social situations that have made you feel uncomfortable?  What did you do?
  • Have you attended the student organization fair? What campus organizations have you gotten involved in?

Late Fall

For this conversation, a student will be beginning to think about going home (perhaps for the first time since they left for college) and will be preparing for finals. Help them think through what “going home” will be like. (And be careful not to assume everyone has a “home” as you may conceive of it, or that it is necessarily a positive environment.) Help your resident think through the academic choices (and mistakes) they made this semester so they can adjust and improve.

When taking notes on your conversation, highlight what has changed for the student throughout the semester, what they’ve learned, their involvement and connectedness on campus, and any anxieties they may have about returning “home.”

Opening Questions:

  • What do you like about living on campus? What do you dislike?
  • What has been the most positive and most difficult part of your transition to college?
  • Do you feel a part of and connected to the campus community?
  • What have you gotten involved in on campus? Are you pursuing and leadership roles?
  • Are you pleased with your personal development thus far?

Theme: Returning Home After a Semester of Change

  • Are you excited or nervous to leave campus and go home? Where is home for you?
  • What will you be doing over the semester break?
  • Do you feel different? Do you think friends and family will notice?
  • How has your college experience changed your perception of home, relationships, and other experiences?

Theme: Setting Goals for Semester Two

  • How have your goals changed since the beginning of the semester?
  • What goals for the first semester have you achieved and which ones are you working on?
  • What would you do differently academically based on what you’ve learned this semester?

Early Spring

Your residents will be returning from break and will have received their first formal college grades. Help them process through what they did well, as well as where they could improve. Some students may be surprised that college-level work requires different levels of effort and habits. Students may also be questioning their choice of major. This conversation is an excellent time to revise and set new goals after a semester of learning.

When taking notes on your conversation, highlight how the resident’s break went, how they feel about their academic progress and achievement thus far, and their new and revised goals for the semester.

Opening Questions:

  • What did you do over break? Did you see friends and family?
  • How has your world view changed after a semester at college?
  • Have you thought about where you will live next semester?
  • How has your roommate relationship been so far? Does your Roommate Agreement Guide need to be revisited?

Theme: Reflections on Academic Performance

  • Are you happy with the grades you received last semester?
  • How might you change your study habits and make different choices to succeed academically?
  • How is your time management? Do you feel you are managing your time well?

Theme: Setting Goals for the Semester

  • Were you satisfied with your involvement on campus last semester?
  • What are your goals for this semester?
  • Are you getting support and connecting to resources to help you achieve those goals?
  • What will you do differently this semester?

Late Spring

This conversation will be the final one you have for the year and occurs at the end of a student’s first year in college. Because of this, students may be reflecting on how their first year went, will be gearing up for a summer job, internship, or vacation, and will be making plans to say goodbye to, and stay in touch with, friends over the summer. This is a great time to plan closure activities for your community.

When taking notes on your conversation, highlight what your resident learned over the course of their first year in college and what their goals are for the summer and the following academic year. Also note whether the resident plans on returning to college next year or if they are considering stopping or transferring.

Opening Questions:

  • How are your preparations for final exams and papers going?
  • How has your approach to classes this semester been different from last semester?
  • Where do you currently stand in your classes?
  • How are you preparing for finals?
  • What Fall classes are you planning on taking?
  • How has your experience living in a community this year prepared you for your living arrangements next year?

Theme: Closure and Moving Forward

  • What has been the most positive and the hardest part of your first year in college?
  • Did your first-year college experience match what you though it would be before you started?
  • What was your biggest success this year? How are you going to build from that success?
  • What about your college experience surprised you?
  • Do you think you’ve changed over the course of your first year?
  • Is there anything you’d do differently next year based on what you learned this year?

Theme: Setting Goals for the Summer and Fall

  • What are you doing this summer? Are your plans helping you achieve any goals?
  • Are you excited or nervous for the summer?
  • How will you maintain connections to your college friends over the summer?
  • Do you have your financial aid/scholarship arrangements for the Fall?
  • Have you made your housing arrangements for the Fall?

 

Second Year Student Conversation

Early Fall

Residents will be returning from their summer and will begin to re-establish friendships or readjust to changed relationships. They will have received their final grades after their first full year in college and may be considering declaring or changing their majors. They will likely want to set new goals for the academic year and may feel like they made mistakes or didn’t focus enough during their first year.

When taking notes on your conversation, highlight the student’s commitment to their academic programs and major, their goals for the year, and how they are connecting to their new communities.

Opening Questions:

  • How was your summer break? What did you do?
  • Are you happy to be back at college after the summer break?
  • Are you reconnecting with friends after the summer?
  • How is the transition to a new residence hall community?
  • How do you feel about this year’s residence hall community? Do you feel as though you have connected with others on on the floor?
  • How does it feel to no longer be a first-year student?

Theme: Setting Goals for the New Academic Year

  • What are you most excited for in your second year?
  • What goals do you have for the semester?  What will you do this semester to achieve those goals?
  • Did anything change over the summer that made you revisit your goals?
  • What are you planning to get involved in on campus this year?
  • Have you missed any classes so far this semester?  Have you spoken with your professor about your absence?
  • What is your plan for staying healthy this semester?

Theme: Making Commitments to A Major

  • How do you feel about your course schedule?  What courses do you think you’ll find most difficult?  What courses do you think you’ll enjoy the most?
  • Have you declared a major?
  • Are you satisfied with your current major?
  • What are you doing to deepen your experience in your chosen major?

Late Fall

Your residents will have begun to make some deeper level commitments to their majors, involvement on campus, to internships, and may be preparing to study abroad. This is an opportunity to check in on their progress towards their goals.

When taking notes on your conversation, highlight the student’s co-curricular involvements and any planning they may be doing for their academic major and related programs.

Opening Questions:

  • What are your plans for the upcoming semester break?
  • How has your relationship with your family changed as you’ve grown?
  • How did you feel the semester went?

Theme: Thinking about Study Abroad, Internships, and Other Opportunities

  • Did you attend any study abroad fairs or internship fairs this semester?
  • Are you getting involved in any activities that can help advance your major or career choices?
  • Have you met with an academic adviser recently?

Theme: Academic/Co-Curricular Check In

  • How are your preparations for final exams and papers going?
  • Are there any classes you’re struggling with or excelling in?
  • Have you completed your General/Liberal Education requirements?
  • Have you met with your academic advisor?
  • What clubs and groups did you involve yourself in? Did you seek out a leadership role or thinking about pursuing one?
  • Have you gone to any events that challenged your thinking? Exposed you to a new culture or social view? What did you learn?

Early Spring

Your residents will be recommitting to their goals for the year and altering them as necessary. In many cases they may begin to think about moving off campus for their housing. Help your students understand everything this entails and discuss resources available to them.

When taking notes on your conversation, highlight their academic performance from the prevision semester, changes to their goals, and plans for housing next year.

Opening Questions:

  • What did you do over break? Did you see friends and family?
  • What are your goals for the upcoming semester?

Theme: Living Plans for Next Year

  • Have you thought about where you will live next semester?
  • If you’re thinking of moving off campus, do you know where to look? What resources there are to help?

Theme: Academic/Co-Curricular Check In

  • Are you happy with the grades you received last semester?
  • What classes are you taking this semester?
  • Do you feel like your involvement in student groups and activities will contribute to your post-college success?

Late Spring

Your residents are completing their second full year at college. They hopefully have direction for their future and are actively making and following through on plans to achieve their goals. Discuss your resident’s summer plans with them, how they fit into the larger picture of their major and career aspirations, and how they have done and are doing academically.

When taking notes on your conversation, highlight the resident’s plans for the summer and their progress towards achieving their goals for this year.

Opening Questions:

  • How are your preparations for final exams and papers going?
  • Are you looking forward to anything before the semester ends?

Theme: Closure and Moving Forward

  • What did you struggle with the most this year?  How can you improve for next year?
  • What was your biggest success this year?  How are you going to build from that success?
  • What are three positive things you have learned about yourself this year?
  • What are three areas of improvement you can identify about yourself after your second year at college?
  • Do you think you’ve changed over the course of this year?
  • Is there anything you’d do differently next year based on what you learned this year?

Theme: Setting Goals for the Summer

  • What are you doing this summer? Are your plans helping you achieve any goals?
  • Are you excited or nervous for the summer?

Third and Fourth Year Student Conversations

Since residential requirements and rates of return to campus housing for third and fourth year students can vary based on the institution, the following are some themes that may be present during a student’s final two (and maybe three) years. Depending on how you structure your Intentional Conversations, it may be more appropriate to have one conversation per semester (as opposed to two) as students begin to become more self-reliant and independent.

Theme: Academic Success

  • Are you satisfied with your cumulative GPA?  What can you do to raise your GPA?
  • Have you declared your major?  Are you happy with your choice?  Have you spoken with your Academic Advisor?
  • Have you completed all of your General/Liberal Education and major requirements?  If not, which do you still have to complete and what is your plan for completing them?

Theme: Transitions

  • Are you anxious about graduation?  How do you feel about leaving college?  Have you spoken with anyone about your feelings?
  • Are you nervous about getting your first job?
  • Have you applied for graduation?  If not, have you contacted your Academic Advisor for additional information?
  • Have you completed your cap and gown order request?

Theme: Internship, Study Abroad, and Other Opportunities

  • Are you considering doing an internship or similar work experience?
  • Have you attended an internship fair or inquired with your department?
  • How would an internship help you achieve your career goals?
  • Have you thought about joining any professional clubs or organizations?  Have you consulted with your Academic Advisor for advice or assistance?
  • Are you considering study abroad? Where would you go? What program would you take advantage of?
  • Do you know how you could pay for a study abroad experience?
  • What are you excited for with study abroad? What worries you?
  • How do you think you can prepare for study abroad?

Theme: Career Preparation

  • Do you know what types of jobs you want to do and what you’ll apply for?
  • Have you gone to the Career Center, attended an event, or met with a career counselor?
  • Do you have a resume? Are you happy with it? Have you practiced writing a cover letter?
  • Have you thought about creating a digital presence or having a LinkedIn profile?
  • Are there experiences you still want to have that would make you a stronger job applicant?
  • Do you know where to look for potential jobs?

Theme: Graduate School Preparation

  • Are you considering going to graduate school? Does your desired career path require a graduate degree?
  • Do you know the academic programs and schools you want to apply to? Do you know what the deadlines are?
  • Have you made preparations to complete tests such as the GRE, the MCAT, the LSAT, or the GMAT?
  • Have you identified faculty members who can help you in this process?
  • Have you gotten involved in research or other opportunities that can help you prepare for and get into graduate school?

Theme: Closure

  • What will be your favorite memory of college?
  • What have you learned about yourself in college?
  • Did you accomplish all of the goals you wanted to before leaving college?
  • How did your goals change over the course of your college life?
  • Have you thought about or prepared for what life will be like after college?
  • What excites you about graduation? What worries you?
  • Are you moving away after college? How will you establish yourself?

Key Questions:

  • How can your Educational Priority guide the development of your questions?
  • What student characteristics, campus cultures, living learning communities, and other factors might guide the questions you include in your Intentional Conversations?
  • Are there certain touchpoints or events in the semester that you might want to incorporate into your questions?

One thought on “100 Questions You Can Use for “Intentional Conversations” in the Residence Halls

Comments are closed.