Advice for Parents, Financial Aid

How and When to Talk to Your Child About The Cost of College

According to a recent article (read here), only 9% of parents talk to their children about how to manage student loans. Since borrowers currently owe around $1.6 trillion dollars in student loan debt, it’s clearly an issue worth discussing. And at Campus Bound, we have some pretty strong feelings about when and how these discussions should occur.

Don’t wait until decision day

Trust us, the last thing you want is for your child to go through the college search and application process having no idea that the cost of colleges will play a role in the final decision about where they will attend. In their world, no news is good news; if you don’t have the conversation with them early, they will assume cost isn’t a factor. They will surge forward with no regard to the cost or how you/they intend to pay. If you wait until April to tell them that they can’t attend their “dream college” because you can’t afford it, they will be beyond disappointed.

The earlier the better

So now you know not to wait until the last minute. So, when is the best time to have this conversation? In our opinion, it’s never too early. Start telling kids that college is expensive, and that scholarships, loans, etc may play a role in the decision about which college they attend. You don’t need to give specific figures, but letting them know that cost is a factor, and to what extent, ensures they won’t be blindsided.

What if you don’t know

If you aren’t sure if you will need, or qualify for, financial aid, you’re not alone. It’s extremely confusing. One of the most helpful things you can do is get advice and information early. Starting when your child enters high school, research and read up on how the financial aid process works. Campus Bound also has two staff members dedicated to helping families with strategies for paying for college. We offer a free consultation so you can get some ballpark figures and helpful advice, which you can then share with your child.

Topics to discuss

Here is a list of the general discussion points parents should have with their children about paying for college:

  1. Whether or not the cost of college will have to play a role in the decision about where they attend, and to what extent.
  2. Definition of important terms: federal student loans, private loans, scholarships, merit aid, work study, etc.
  3. The pros and cons of taking out loans to pay for certain colleges.
  4. The dangers of credit card debt.
  5. How to set a budget, both while in college, and after.

If you find yourself confused or unclear about how you will pay for your child to attend college, you aren’t alone. And we are happy to help. Contact us to get some numbers crunched. And start being realistic with your child about if, and to what extent, the cost of college will play a role in their final decision.