Bring Up The Topic of College Financial Aid Over the Holidays

Teach The Money Lessons Your Children Need to Hear


The holidays are always a time for families to gather together. They are supposed to be a warm time of sharing and caring, so many people purposely try not to bring up difficult topics. When it comes to high school and college students who are learning to deal with money, though, parents need to begin the difficult conversation about college financial aid at some point. It is a very bad idea to wait until your child graduates from college to deal with the “money elephant” in the room.

Do it now, so that you can avoid misunderstandings and possible complications down the road. Here are some tips which can help you bring up the topic of college financial aid over the holidays:

  • Pick Your Time: You want to pick a time where the schedule is not too hectic. Don’t do it when your college student just gets home, or when everyone is in a rush to get things done. Talk to your student and say, “I’d like to sit down and discuss your college money situation with you. When will you have about an hour free so that we can make some decisions together?”
  • Be Prepared: Have a list of topics you want to discuss. For high school students, you want to start thinking ahead about college financial aid and discussing the cost of college. With college students, you need to make sure they are on track with their budgeting skills. If your child has already graduated from college, it’s time to see how the student loan payments are going before they get out of hand.
  • Be Honest: Many parents don’t want to look bad in front of their children, or think it is their sole responsibility to pay for an education. Just remember that you are in this together, you have an entire family to provide for, and you do need to think about your own needs in retirement, too. Give your child a realistic expectation of how much you can afford to support the college goal. Discuss how this impacts college choices now or post-college life if student loans are involved.
  • Be Consistent: If you have more than one child, you want to be consistent in the amount of money you spend on each one for college. Explain to all of your children that you only have a certain amount of money available for their education, and let them know that they will be expected to play a role in paying for their own schooling.
  • Don’t Delay: It is a difficult topic, but it doesn’t get any easier by delaying the conversation; in fact, that could possibly make it worse. Your child needs to have a definite answer involving what you can afford to pay, and must know the student loan repayment responsibilities they will be taking on after graduation.
  • Provide a Financial Education: For the most part, schools do not provide any type of financial education, so that is up to you as a parent. You need to accept the responsibility of teaching your child about financial planning, financial aid, student loans, credit cards, and the effective use of debt. If you don’t have the skills, find a professional who can help you transmit this crucial information to your children.

It doesn’t need to be a traumatic confrontation, just a comfortable talk between parent and child. This won’t make the holidays difficult, and could actually end up making them even better in the future.