Why are you here? icebreaker

In his freshman seminar "What is College and What is it For?," Dr. Paul Barreira uses an icebreaker that lets students know that there are no right answers and that students should feel comfortable sharing their experiences.  On the first meeting, Paul explains the purpose of the seminar -- to think critically about the purpose of higher education -- and he then gives them the paragraph they wrote when trying to get into the course that explains why they wanted to join the seminar.  However, names are removed.  The students then go around and read the paragraphsand they have to guess who wrote each one.  This gets the students to start thinking about what other people have to say about why they're in the class and why they're at Harvard.  It also makes them feel more comfortable talking about themselves with each other.

Such an activity could be done outside of a course about college. Students could be prompted to write an anonymous paragraph about why they want to take a class.  They could then exchange paragraphs, read them aloud, and guess the author.  This would function as an icebreaker and would let students realize that their own experiences and reasons for taking the class are relevant.