Parents: How to Discuss College Costs
It may sound daunting, but it’s important for parents to discuss college costs and budgeting as part of the college search process . College is an investment and in order to feel confident and excited about your student’s educational choice, your entire family needs to be on the same page financially.
Take advantage of the back-to-school season to pencil in some time to have an honest conversation about finances, what this will mean for your student’s applications, and the saving habits your teen will need to build. Keep reading for tips on creating an empowering college cost dialogue.
Do Your Research
In order to have a productive conversation, parents (and students!) need to know where they stand. Get together and review the FAFSA website to stay up to date on what kinds of financial aid your student is eligible for, what your EFC (expected family contribution) will look like, and deadlines to have on your radar. Students should also check out the net price calculator available on university websites to start to get a sense of what families may be expected to pay at various schools. Understanding how actual costs vary from a school’s “sticker price” is an important part of the college search and research process in order to find colleges that are a good financial fit.
It’s natural to want to your shield your student from college costs but at the end of the day, everyone will feel most at ease from a genuine conversation. Explain how much you have saved, what kind of federal aid your student should qualify for, and how your family will bridge the gaps regarding these costs. Discuss a multitude of possibilities, such as scholarships, merit aid, student loans, work-study programs, and additional employment options, to help encourage your student to pinpoint actionable steps that work for your family.
Encourage an Open Mind
Every college applicant needs to consider all of their options and avoid having their heart set on just one school. This can be particularly true regarding college costs, especially because financial aid packages and tuition rates can vary greatly from school to school. Encourage your student to keep an open mind and to compile a balanced list of schools that are true best-fits, financially as well as academically and socially. Tools such as College Navigator and net price calculators on a university webpage can provide valuable information on how a certain school will fit into your family’s budget.
Set Realistic Expectations
In order to avoid overwhelming your student, make it clear that paying for college is a team effort. Even if you cannot fully or partially contribute to your student’s education, parents can still offer support by assisting their teenager in creating a realistic budget and helping them search for job opportunities and scholarships. Make it clear to your student that you are in this together and work to create a financial plan that gets everyone involved.
Sitting down and having the financial talk with your student is the best way to make sure your entire family is on the same page during application season and beyond. If your student is preparing to apply to college and looking for nuanced insight, our team of college admissions counselors and financial aid experts can offer guidance throughout the process.