College Talk: 5 Conversations to Have With Your Parents

Ginger Abbot

Feb 25, 2023
Happy Student 1

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As a newly graduated high schooler, you may have some questions about your next steps in life. You may wonder what college major to choose and how you’ll pay for it. You may be unsure how to navigate college admissions or handle homesickness as a freshman. You may also wonder whether college is a good choice for you at all. 

Here’s another question for you: have you talked to your parents about any of this? Your parents don’t have all the answers and talking to them about your future may feel stressful. However, these discussions can also bring clarity and peace to your next steps. Here are five tips to help you talk to your parents about college. 

  1. Talk About Your Emotions

Some families naturally talk about emotions from the time their kids are born. They ask questions about feelings and are intentional about diving into deep topics. If you haven’t done this before, discussing your emotions may feel scary. Opening up feels vulnerable because your parents could reject or dismiss how you feel. 

Although it’s scary, sharing your feelings is the best way to establish trust and intimacy in a relationship. When you open up about how you feel, you’re giving your parents permission to be honest with you as well. Let them know how you’re feeling about college and listen to what they have to say. These conversations are an opportunity to build mutual understanding and support.  

  1. Set Clear Expectations

Expectations are assumptions, often unspoken, about what something will look like. Before you head to college, talk to your parents about any expectations you may have. For example, you may initially want to come home every weekend. Your parents may want to talk to you a certain number of times a week and they may expect you to initiate that. 

Clarify your expectations so that no one gets blindsided by reality once you start college. If your parents think you’ll call and you don’t, they may be worried about your safety. Life change is hard on everyone in different ways. Talking about expectations can help prepare you all for success. 

  1. Discuss Financial Aid

It’s normal to feel stressed about paying for college. This is also something you should verbalize to your parents. Talk about your concerns and listen to theirs. Then, you can create a plan together that will help you cover college costs. Your parents may want to help pay for it or they may want you to figure that out on your own. 

There are many resources available to help you pay for college. You can apply for scholarships, look for sponsors or slow down your degree track and work while in school. Talk about how long it would take you to pay off college loans – they’re usually not a good idea unless you’re on track to get a high-paying job right out of college.

  1. Create Healthy Boundaries

When you first move away from home, it can be hard for you and your parents to practice healthy boundaries. Whether you’re ecstatic to leave or desperately homesick at even the thought, moving out is an emotional process. Before you take this step, think about how you want your relationships to change while you’re at school. 

It’s important to keep in touch with your parents while you’re away, but you don’t have to call or text them every day. As you gain confidence and become more independent, you won’t need their support as much. This gives you an opportunity to develop friendships with them instead. Part of independence is learning to relate to your parents in a new way. 

  1. Think Through Commitment

Making a four-year commitment to attend school can feel overwhelming. It’s always challenging to move somewhere new, especially if you don’t know anyone and aren’t sure if it will be a good fit for you yet. Thankfully, college is a commitment you can back out of if needed. Talk to your parents and make a plan for what you’ll do if you hate college. 

Many students transfer schools, change majors and even take gap years before finishing their degree. You don’t have to have everything figured out before you go to college. Instead, give yourself permission to ask questions, learn about different careers and grow emotionally as well as intellectually. Your college plans are flexible and you can always change direction. 

Talk to Your Parents About College

Life after high school can feel like a scary unknown. Being open with your parents can help you sort through emotions and make better decisions for your future. You don’t have to take all of their advice, but their perspective can reduce anxiety and help you sort through future decisions. 

There isn’t one right path for you to take after high school, so don’t worry about missing it. Practice healthy communication with your parents and don’t keep your feelings bottled up inside. Take one step at a time and have faith that it’s all going to work out – because it will.

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