How do I Talk To My Parents About College?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A parent talking to his son while walking.

How to Talk With Your Parents About Paying for College

The Ivy League is often viewed as the holy grail of higher education. It’s comprised of eight highly prestigious universities that have earned respect for their world-class academic offerings, research opportunities, elite faculty, successful alumni. If you’ve been dreading this conversation with your parents, you’re in the right place as we answer the question “How do I talk to my parents about college?”.

However, these schools have also developed a reputation for being quite expensive when compared to other colleges. With college tuition being a significant burden for so many students, many turn to their parents for assistance. But this can make some students feel awkward and unsure.

Here we’ll take a look at some strategies you can use to discuss paying for an Ivy League education with your parents.

Start the conversation early.

Asking your parents to help pay for college is a nerve-wracking idea for many high schoolers. But the longer you put it off, the more pressure there is on your parents.

When talking about such an important topic, you need to bring it up as early as possible to give your parents sufficient time to think it over without any time pressures. If you spring it on them last-minute, it not only hurts your chances of successfully attending the Ivies but also puts your parents in an unfair situation.

Young female talking to her mother in the living room.

It’s a good idea to speak with your parents about paying for the Ivies well before you begin the application process. Ideally, students would let their parents know even when they start considering the Ivies. Whether that’s near the end of grade school or at the beginning of high school, this early heads-up allows your parents time to properly prepare if they decide to help.

As you become more certain about your decision, then you can take the conversation further. The more time your parents have to prepare both mentally and financially, the better chance you’ll have of getting some assistance.

Be prepared.

Before engaging in any meaningful conversation, it’s crucial to prepare yourself. Don’t forget that you’re asking your parents for help – it’s not something guaranteed or expected. An Ivy League is a major investment. There’s no question it’s worth it as it pays for itself a hundred times over in a variety of ways. You might understand that but your parents might not.

Unless they’ve attended the Ivies themselves or have done their own research, they might simply think these schools are overly expensive.

It’s your job to convince them of the value and meaningfulness of this opportunity. There’s no doubt your parents will have some questions. That’s why it’s imperative to conduct your own research beforehand. Here are some important things to know:

  • How much tuition costs at your desired Ivy League school.
  • What scholarships or financial aid opportunities are available.
  • How much tuition assistance you’ll be eligible for.
  • What major or program you want to pursue at this school.
  • How a degree from this school will help you land your dream jobs or pursue a career you’re passionate about.
  • Why your school of choice is a better option than other, less-expensive schools.

Phew! That’s a lot to know. Answering some of these questions will require a lot of research on your part while others will require you to do some self-reflection about where you want to go academically and professionally.

Having answers to these questions before speaking with your parents can help put their minds at ease knowing that you know exactly what you want to do and that this school is the perfect place for you to attend.

Think big picture.

When comparing the tuition rates of in-state colleges and other universities to the cost of an Ivy League education, it’s clear that the Ivies cost more on average. When asking your parents to help cover the cost of your college education, you should demonstrate why the Ivies are worth the extra cost.

Female student talking to her mother.

After all, when simply speaking of cost, it’s clear that other schools are more affordable. However, very few schools offer the same value that the Ivies provide to students.

In other words, the extra cost is definitely worth it. Illustrating this value to your parents can help them understand the extra cost. When viewed as a long-term investment, an Ivy League education makes a lot of sense financially.

Let’s take a look at some concrete ways an Ivy League education sets you up for success:

Apply for scholarships.

As mentioned before, your parents might be more willing to help you pay for the Ivies when seeing how committed you are. Another way to demonstrate your dedication while also alleviate some of the financial burdens is to apply for scholarships.

There are countless scholarships available to high schoolers offered by local, state, and federal governments, charities and non-profits, businesses, private individuals, foundations, and much, much more. Furthermore, these scholarships are offered to a range of students based on a wide array of criteria. Some scholarships are need-based and others reward academic performance.

To find scholarships that you might be eligible for, you can use these helpful resources:

  • Fastweb.com – This site has over 1.5 million scholarships totaling over #3.4 billion in financial assistance!
  • CollegeBoard.org – This non-profit is known for its college-prep exams but also has a branch committed to scholarships.
  • Niche.com – This site is great for finding scholarships by major, career, internet, and more, making it easier to find exactly what you need.
  • Scholarships.com – The name says it all. This is the largest database of scholarships in the world and it’s updated every single day.
  • Moolahspot.com – It’s not as large as some other databases on this list but it’s still helpful. With over 3 million options, it’s definitely not a waste of time.
  • SallieMae – This well-established student loan provider offers a pretty robust search filtration feature where you can find scholarships based on certain parameters such as hobbies, area of study, and more.
  • Scholarship Monkey – This versatile search tool lets you find grants and scholarships through keywords and also lists financial assistance by category and time for easier browsing.
  • Cappex – This site has a rich database of scholarships totaling $11 billion. You can easily search for scholarships based on your unique skills and strengths.
  • Chegg – You might know it from selling textbooks, but this site also lists over 25,000 scholarships!
  • Unigo – With millions of scholarships on this site’s database, it’s a must on your list of financial aid resources. You can search based on a variety of criteria based on state, college, major, company, and much more.
  • Peterson’s – Simply fill out a quick survey and you’ll be met with scholarship results that match you best. This is a great way to cut down on research time while still finding viable options.
  • U.S. Labor Department’s Free Search Tool – Use this free tool to browse through 8,000 different grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid that you might qualify for.

Offer to pay a portion yourself.

If you’re planning to work while in college, offering to pay some of your tuition might make your parents more willing to contribute to an Ivy League education.

Not only will their share of the cost diminish, but your willingness to cover some of the costs will demonstrate your commitment. Some parents are hesitant to make an investment if they’re unsure about whether or not their child will make the most of the opportunity.

A man talking to his father while sitting next to a table.

After all, there are a good number of students who end up dropping out of college after a few years or transfer to another university so this concern isn’t unfounded. But showing a desire to cover at least a bit of your tuition can convince your parents of your seriousness.

Even if you’re not planning to hold a job while attending college or you simply don’t have enough of an income to make a substantial contribution, you could always pull out some student loans.

Of course, it’s ideal if you can avoid borrowing to pay for college, but if taking out some loans means your parents will feel more comfortable offering to help you financially, it might be worth it.

Ease into the conversation.

Money isn’t the easiest topic to broach with your parents. Even if you have the best relationship, simply asking them to pay for college right out of the gate can come across as abrasive. If you and your parents haven’t had the conversation before, it’s ideal to bring it up in small increments rather than unloading the bombshell right away.

For example, you could kick start the talk with an open-ended question such as “What kind of plans did you have for me in terms of college?” A less-intrusive and generalized question like this can naturally lead to talks about paying for your college without requiring you to come out and ask immediately. Of course, you might have to nudge the conversation in that direction.

View of a woman using a laptop while studying.

Again, broader questions can be helpful to ensure you don’t encroach into sensitive areas. Asking something like “How did you pay for college when you attended?” Can help push the discussion in the direction you want.

If things don’t end up where you want, you might have to get a little more explicit while still not being too direct. You could ask something like “Have you ever considered helping me pay for college?” It makes it clear what you’re asking about without coming across too strong.

Don’t get discouraged.

When speaking with your parents about paying for college, it’s imperative not to get discouraged if things don’t go as you had hoped. Just because your parents can’t contribute to your Ivy League tuition doesn’t mean that attending your dream school is out of the question.

Young woman talking to her mother.

As mentioned before, most Ivy Leagues have robust tuition assistance opportunities for accepted students who have a financial barrier to covering the cost of tuition. In fact, many universities strive to ensure that any student who gets accepted can attend no matter their financial situation.

Many schools accomplish this through needs-based assistance. This essentially means that the amount of financial aid offered is in direct proportion to the amount of assistance a student needs. This is often calculated from your parents’ income.

Explore Ivy League financial assistance.

Ivy League schools have a reputation for being more expensive than other universities or colleges across the US. However, what’s not as well-known is that the Ivies offer robust financial aid incentives to support students who are accepted but have a financial barrier to attendance.

Seeking out these opportunities provides an excellent chance to speak with your parents about potentially contributing to your college tuition. As we mentioned before, any gesture of commitment on your part can make your parents more likely to offer financial support.

Demonstrating your willingness to seek out financial aid opportunities from the Ivies is a great way to illustrate this commitment. Furthermore, your parents might be surprised just how feasible an Ivy League education is with this financial assistance. Below, we’ve provided links to financial aid and assistance information for all eight Ivy League schools to help kickstart your research.

Research with your parents.

When planning to apply to the Ivies, you’re most likely conducting a ton of research to answer all of your questions. A great way to ease your parents into the idea of helping you financially with attending the Ivies is to include them in the research process.

This isn’t about having your parents research on your behalf. Instead, it’s about bringing them into your world to get a glimpse of how you’re feeling and thinking about the Ivies. This strategy accomplishes a few important things.

First and foremost, you’re including your parents in the process of learning about the Ivies, strategizing your application process, and more.

When your parents feel like an integral part of the process, they’re going to be more emotionally invested in seeing you do well. This could help increase the likelihood that they’ll provide some financial support if you end up getting accepted into an Ivy League school.

Another major advantage of this strategy is that your parents end up learning about the Ivies with you. Instead of having to relay all of this information a second time to your parents, they’re learning at the same time you are.

Furthermore, they will give a new knowledge more weight when hearing it from reputable sources such as the school’s official website. It takes out an extra step of your parents having to double-check what you tell them. It’s a win-win!

Bring in reinforcements.

Money is a sensitive subject…even between students and parents. A great way to break the ice is to have a professional offer their expertise. A college entrance expert can help convey the value of an Ivy League education to parents while offering strategies to reduce the cost and optimize the investment.

At AdmissionSight, we work with both students and parents to help alleviate some pressures of applying to the Ivies. With over a decade of experience helping high schoolers enter the Ivies, we know just how impactful an education from one of these prestigious schools can be.

Hearing an experienced professional explain the benefits of the Ivies can help parents better understand the higher price tag. We’ll be able to answer any questions that might arise.

Secure a spot in the Ivy League

Applying to the Ivy League is a daunting process for many students due to the high selectivity of these schools and the complicated application process. But you’re not alone!

AdmissionSight is a committed college entrance expert that specializes in helping students prepare for the Ivy League. We can help demystify the admissions process of the world’s leading universities while helping you put together a stellar application that’s bound to get you noticed.

How do we do it? Well, we offer a variety of highly specialized services each designed to help you master a particular part of the college admissions process.

If you need assistance choosing the best high school courses and extracurriculars to chart a path towards the Ivies, we’ve got you covered! Not sure about your writing chops? We can help you pen fantastic college essays. AdmissionSight will guide you through the entire admissions process to help you secure a spot in the Ivy League.

Ready to secure a spot in the school of your dreams? Feel free to contact us today to set up a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!


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