Paying for college: How to start the conversation

Teenage girl and mother looking at laptop together

The ways I opened up the college chat with my parents

“Invest in yourself.” It’s a common phrase young adults hear a lot. And it can mean different things to different people, depending on their personal goals. As a first-generation college graduate, investing in my higher education continues to be one of the most impactful decisions I could have made for myself and my career. However, I won’t lie and tell you it was easy for me to afford college, or that strangers happily shared helpful resources with me. I really didn’t know how I was going to do it. I just knew I was going to figure it out. So, I came up with a blueprint of my academic plan and shared it with my parents.

This is my story 

Both my parents were born and raised in Michoacán, México. When they crossed over to the United States, earning a college education was not their priority. They focused on working demanding hours and raising a family while trying to navigate the lifestyle of a new country. You can only imagine the look we had on our faces when we saw the costs of attending a 4-year university after high school. This is where my academic blueprint came in handy for navigating the tough conversations about paying for college. Here are my consejitos (or tips) for opening up the conversation.

3 Tips for tough conversations about paying for college

1. Create an academic blueprint

Sitting down and researching the colleges or universities you might want to attend—and why—is essential when talking with your family about what you want to do after high school. If your support system sees that you have a plan and you are willing to commit yourself to it, they will feel reassured in your decision—and maybe they’ll help you pay for it.

2. Be open to feedback

Trust me I get it, no one likes to be questioned or receive feedback that might contradict their plans. But it’s important to be open-minded when hearing what your family has to say. They might suggest you attend community college or that you choose whatever school gives you the most financial aid, even if it’s not your first choice. Regardless, it’s important to remember if your loved ones have genuinely listened to everything you had to share, then it’s important to reciprocate it. When both parties feel heard and understood, you can make better decisions together.

3. Give it time

If your conversation didn’t go as planned, that does not mean it’s all over. Your higher education is a crucial part of your life, and it won’t be decided overnight, let alone after one conversation. It’s frustrating when your plans and ideas are not supported right away but giving the conversation time before addressing it again is essential. Just think of it as planting the seed. It takes time before anything can sprout and grow. Giving your loved ones and yourself the time needed to reflect on this topic can make a difference. Always remember it doesn’t really matter where you started your studies, as long as you earn your degree in the end.

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