Money is one of the most difficult topics to talk about in life. However, money defines so many aspects of how we live and work that it simply must be discussed. Figuring out how higher education is going to be funded is on every student’s agenda when making their university plans. Some are fortunate enough to land bursaries, some attend state schools where tuition, room and board are less expensive, and some will be deep in student loans for years following graduation.
There are students that are lucky enough to have parents that are willing and able to contribute to the hefty sum that is required to attend university. As decision-making time fast approaches, how does one begin that conversation? How do you know how much assistance you are going to get from your parents, which schools fit within the budget, and how much financial aid you are going to need to apply for?
You’ve visited your schools of choice and you’ve dedicated hours to your applications. So, what’s next, other than waiting (not so) patiently for your acceptance letters? Money. How are you going to pay for the next 4 years?
The Sooner, The Better
The earlier you put on your grown-up pants and decide to break the ice, the better off you will be. Having the money talk can be awkward and uncomfortable, but don’t think that your parents aren’t expecting it. Whether or not they can contribute, and no matter what they are able to offer, your parents are fully aware that your higher education costs money and that you are just a poor high schooler looking to go somewhere in life. It is NOT lost on them.
The sooner you know what you may or may not be working with, the more time you will have to figure out how you are going to make up the difference. It would also behoove you to talk to them early because it’s best to know what you simply cannot afford. Your dream school could be tens of thousands of dollars more than what your parents can manage financially, which would require that you seek other sources of funds if you’ve really got your heart set on it. This is very possible, considering how expensive schooling is these days.
If you are in need of financial aid beyond what your parents can offer, getting ahead of the game will give you more time to ask for help when it comes to understanding all the paperwork required by admissions and financial aid companies. What’s new to you is likely familiar to them, so take the help when you can get it.
When and How to Approach the Conversation
- Choose a neutral time. There is no easy way to discuss money, so it is important to talk to your parents when you are on relaxed terms and when they are not distracted by other things. Meaning, do not throw tuition costs at them after a heated argument, or amidst a stressful work deadline. If you’re having trouble finding a good time, suggest taking a walk or going out for coffee so you are on a neutral playing field, entirely dedicated to your conversation.
- Be prepared. Before having the talk, be prepared to offer ways in which you plan to contribute to the costs. These days, it is uncommon for students to go to school without having to pay a dime out of their own pocket. Often, parents will cover some of the upfront payments and students will be left paying off loans post-graduation. If you come into the conversation with suggestions on how you can help, even if the numbers seem small, you’ll be showing your parents that you are willing and happy to take on some of the responsibility. Let’s face it, university ain’t cheap! Your parents will let you know whether they need your help. The gesture will go a long way.
- Don’t beat around the bush, they’ll see right through you. Be straight and to the point, and they will respect the fact that you’re treating the situation like an adult. Rather than trying to milk the conversation out of them, approach them with sincere authority. For all you know, they could have a good chunk of money saved up for the sole purpose of putting you through college and are simply waiting for you to come to them about how you’re going to take care of things.
- Treat it like a business meeting. In addition to being prepared with how you plan to help, you should be ready with the materials they need to make a decision. Let them know where you stand with the application process, where you most hope to enroll, what you have received in bursary money, and real numbers so they can give you an idea of how much they can afford to give you. Offering them hard copies of the schools’ tuition fees and deadlines will help them visualize where there money would be going and what type of cash flow would be required throughout your enrollment.
After the Talk
The conversation shouldn’t end after you determine how much money you can expect from your parents. Because they are going to help fund your education, they will need to know when money is due, where it should be sent, what kind of schedule needs to be followed, and more. If you have a shared checking account, you may suggest taking on the burden of making the payments on your own so they don’t need to be responsible for meeting payment deadlines.
Additionally, your parents may make an excellent resource when it comes to finding and applying for bursaries and financial aid to sustain the remaining balance. Remember, your parents want what is best for you. You just need to treat the conversation like an adult! It all changes from here!