Tips & conversations starters to talk with your family about college costs
Paying for College


For many people, young AND old, talking about money can feel weird, uncomfortable, or even a little stressful. This is especially true when talking to your parent(s) about money for college. Now that you know you’re not alone, make a plan to talk to your family about how much they can contribute to your education. This information is critical in determining which schools will be affordable for you, not just for your first year, but every year that you’re in college.


You might feel tempted to wait because you don’t want to trouble your parent(s). The best thing you can do to reduce their stress about your college costs is to give them plenty of time to prepare. Delaying this conversation can create a very big stressor because it may be too late to adequately prepare the necessary paperwork or consider other options.


Some students feel it is not their place to start this conversation and may wait for their parent(s) to initiate the discussion. But in reality, you are the one who is ultimately responsible for managing your college expenses. Since your college finances will affect your own future, it is your responsibility to seek out the help and support that you need. Start by being proactive in seeking out your family’s support and guidance.


Not knowing your college financial situation is stressful for you and your parent(s). You have the ability to bring peace of mind to your family by presenting them with your options and the cost of each. Your DecidED profile, showing all of your options and funding sources is a great resource in helping you and your parent(s) understand how much you would have to pay out-of-pocket for each college. After you’ve uploaded your award letters on DecidED, show your parent(s)  what the out of pocket cost is at each of your schools and talk openly about what your options would be for covering those gaps.


When it comes to money, it is easy for unforeseen issues to get in the way of our plans, and college planning is no exception. Make a backup plan with your parent(s) by asking yourselves

“What will we do in August if we don’t have enough money saved to pay for the first semester expenses?”

Will you take out more loans or maybe cut costs somewhere else? Having a backup plan will ensure that, come August, you are able to afford and attend school. Checking in on your plan as early as November of your first year of college will help you stay on track to reapply for financial aid for your next year of college.


Some students feel guilty because they do not want to ask their parent(s) for money. This conversation isn’t necessarily just about asking your parent(s) for money – it’s about working together to understand your options. 

You have Nothing to Feel Guilty About! 

One way to feel better about this is by letting your parent(s) know that you appreciate their help in decision-making, regardless of how much or whether they can contribute financially. You can reinforce this by talking to your family regularly about your decision and discussing your options together, along with trusted school counselors and college advisors.


If you are deciding where to go to college: Hey, I’m using DecidED to help me figure out which college would be the most affordable for me. Can we find a time this week to sit down and look at it together? I want to hear what you think about it.

If you have already decided where you are going to college:  DecidED provides information to help me choose an affordable college. It shows the financial choices I have to make to pay for college, like how much I’ll have to work or take out in loans to cover my costs beyond any grants or scholarships I receive. I want to get your help making these decisions by looking through it together. When would be a good time this week?

If you aren’t sure how to ask your parent(s) how much money they can contribute: There are still some college costs that I have to cover myself, even after getting loans and scholarships. Just so that I know what my options are, I want to ask how much you think you can cover next year. No matter what that amount is, it’s just good to know so that we can plan better.