Parents, Why an Early and Honest Discussion of Finances is Important

I often get this kind of email from parents, “Hi Kristen. I know you will be meeting with my daughter (or son) soon and I wanted you to know that finances are a big concern of ours, as her parents. We haven’t told her that we can’t afford a lot for college, so we hope you will subtly work it into the advice you present. Thank you.”

There are a few things that don’t work well in the scenario above. Let’s break it down.


Family finances are tricky

First, we completely understand that finances can be a very private, tricky, complex issue for families. Up to this point, you may not have shared very much at all about your financial situation with your son or daughter and we understand if that is the case. The discussions each parent has with their child are personal and given careful consideration depending on the values of each family, and it makes perfect sense to us.


Don’t mislead them

However, when it comes to the college process, we believe that open and honest communication is going to serve you much better than the alternative. College comes with a big price tag. There’s no getting around that. And college-bound kids know that too. Avoiding the topic could be sending the message to your child that the cost doesn’t matter and you can afford anything. Then, if you try to bring it up later, they can feel misled. If you let them get their heart set on a college and then at the end say, “oh, we can’t afford that college,” your child may feel hurt and deceived.


Be honest…as honest as you can

Bringing up the financial aspect of college early in the process will help students manage their expectations. You should let your child know that there are limitations to what you can afford and what you are willing to pay for. You don’t need to share every single aspect of your personal finances. However, being as honest and direct as you can earlier will save a lot of heartache later on.


A financial safety

College advisors talk a lot about “safety” schools, that is, a school the student is likely to be admitted to. I like to also discuss with families “financial safety” schools. That is, schools that they are likely able to afford. The financial aid process can be curious and unpredictable. A “financial safety” is a school where the price tag, or likely price tag, is affordable. For many families, this is a state school, or a college that is likely to offer a large financial aid package to a student. For advice about which colleges are “financial safeties,” we recommend consulting with an expert.



If you need help

If you do need the help of a College Counselor or Specialist to help facilitate financial conversations with your child, we are here to help. We understand that it can be sensitive and difficult, and having a third party help explain the specifics can be beneficial. We can help parents be up front and honest with their college-bound child in a caring and sensitive way. Honesty is the best policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.


For more guidance and to learn how Campus Bound can help you, contact us today.

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