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How to Talk to Your Family About Making Your College Decision

Last updated October 30, 2023

Going to college is a monumental occasion not just for you, but also for your family– so it’s important to start an open conversation with them throughout your college planning process. We recognize that this can be a very emotional or difficult journey for you, especially if your family is not as supportive of your plans as you’d like them to be. However, making room for open and honest communication about your college journey can lead to better understanding, empathy, and resolution. Here are some tips and considerations when it’s time to talk to your family about your college decision.

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Before starting the conversation

We recommend taking some time before having a conversation with your family to consider some questions or points they may raise. This could be things like whether or not you’ll be able to continue your religious practices on campus, how safe your chosen school and its surrounding community is, and if your family will be able to contribute financially to your education. Starting a dialogue with your family feeling prepared and open to talking about any major concerns they may have will not only show them that you care about their input, but are also confident and rooted in your decision. Having trouble making a decision about your post-high school plan? Check out this article for some strategies.

Communication is key

By discussing your goals and plans for college, it will help your family understand the best way to support you. In turn, hearing from your family about their hopes and concerns will help you determine where you are aligned and where you are not. Difficult conversations are inevitable if you are not in agreement about your plans, but it's how you handle these disagreements that matter most. Your family’s strong feelings or even opposition may come from a place of genuine concern for your well-being (financially, socially, and emotionally), so it’s important to really listen to their perspectives during your conversation, even if you don’t necessarily agree. Your family most likely wants you to succeed just as much as you do, so showing up willing to hear them out is important.

If at any time you feel like you have come to an impasse with your family, there are some resources that can help. Try talking to families that have recently gone through the college application and decision process such as cousins, church members, and coworkers. You can also reach out to your school counselor to see if they can connect you to recent graduates and their families to hear about their experiences. You may also reach out to the college itself - they might be able to provide more information that can help your family come to a better understanding of your decision. The sooner your family tackles any disagreements and continues the college planning process with the same goals in mind, the better.

Two women stand in a garden. One holds a wooden box and one holds a green watering can - How to Talk to Your Family About Making Your College Decision

Consider your family dynamics

Going to college will most likely change some dynamics within your family. Again, the most important thing you can do to avoid any confusion is to communicate, early and frequently. Your family may need to recalibrate to ensure their needs are still met once you’re in college. Even if you choose to stay at home and attend college nearby, you will probably be available much less frequently than you used to be in order to make time for class, extracurriculars, and other important new responsibilities. Working as a family to create a realistic plan with realistic expectations is key to minimizing unnecessary stress and strain. Give each other grace as you all learn what works best for your family.

Learning together

Financial aid nights, senior events, college tours, and school conferences are easy ways to engage your family in your college journey and spark meaningful conversations. This is especially helpful if you’re first-generation (the first in your family to attend college). Your transition to college can be a confusing or overwhelming experience, so helping your family understand the process will help them provide informed advice and support. If you’re not the first in your family to attend college, these events can be just as helpful or beneficial, since the college application process has changed significantly (and continues to do so). Being on the same page and having a mutual understanding of important deadlines, requirements, and processes can unite you in your college decision.

Deciding to attend college is an incredible achievement, and you deserve to feel supported during your journey. If you have any questions about applying to college or could use some advice on how to start an open conversation with your family about your choice, we’re here to help! Just text #Hello to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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