Talking to Your Parents About Paying for College
Parents paying for college is definitely an ideal situation, but can they actually afford it? Finding out if they can or can not is a necessary first step when applying to college. The talk may be uncomfortable, but it is important to know how much they can help you pay. Some parents can pay for college completely, while other parents can only help out a little or not at all. It’s easy to forget about how much parents can actually afford to pay.
How to Approach the Subject
For many students, this may be the first time that they have to deal with a financial situation on their own. This can be very stressful and confusing. Your parents can be a great help when it comes to this because they can give you advice and help you make sense of it all.
Talk to your parents before you start filling out applications and choosing colleges. Also, talk to your parents about your financial situation early on. That way there are no surprises later. You can have this conversation as early as your sophomore or junior year of high school. In this way, you won’t waste time applying to a college that is way out of your budget. Don’t get caught up in your dream college before you know your family can pay for it.
Some key questions you may want to ask your parents:
- Do you have any money set aside for my college education? If so, how much?
- Have you thought about how I am going to pay for college?
- Besides college tuition, are you able to help me with rent money and spending money? If so, how much? Write this information down so that the numbers are clear to both of you.
Starting the conversation with them can be hard, but it is important that you understand your family’s finances. Don’t try and talk about your parents paying for college while they are busy. Instead, ask them when they are free to talk about your college financial situation, and plan a time when you can all sit down and plan together. Do your research before the talk, and come with an understanding of college tuition costs and living expenses.
Keep in Mind
Once you sit down with your parents, it is important to be direct, as awkward as it may be for you. Talk about your expectations and ask your parents what are their expectations. Write down different costs you will need to pay for. Accept your parents’ answers and do not try and argue with them. It can be frustrating to hear that your parents are not able to help you as much as you were expecting, but they may be doing all that they can to help you. It won’t help the situation to get mad at them for not being able to pay more of your college education. Instead, tell them that you appreciate any help that they are able to give and that you are aware that it is a difficult situation for the family. And finally, use their help to think of other ways you can get money for college. This can include filling out financial aid and federal loan forms such as FAFSA. You will need their tax information to fill out the form and they will be able to explain different forms.
College is very expensive. To help with the cost, apply to as many scholarships as possible. And always be on the lookout for different opportunities to lower the cost of college for you and your family.