When You Can't Afford the Dream School
So your child has studied hard, put in the work, and has been accepted to that
prestigious school of their dreams.
After the euphoria of that acceptance letter, however, many parents find themselves in a heartbreaking situation when the scholarships offered may not even come close to being sufficient to cover the price tag.
Realizing that your child’s first choice is out of reach can be a difficult moment for all involved, especially when you know that your teen has worked hard to make that dream a reality. When your child has his or her heart set on a certain school, how do you break the news that you cannot afford to make it work?
First, be proactive and study the costs and the scholarship possibilities ahead of time. Many parents only become aware of the average yearly cost to attend both public and private schools their child’s junior or senior year, and at that point it can be jarring. Begin having these conversations early, and make sure both you and your child are informed before the college search even begins.
Be realistic. Make sure your teen understands the costs involved, and let them know if you think you will be unable to meet them. If they will need to contribute, either with a part-time job, by working hard to earn scholarships, or by taking on student loans, make sure they are aware early on so that they can have a better understand of what to expect and what will be expected of them.
Discuss the return on the investment in their education. What will their field of study be? What is the chance of employment upon graduation with that degree, and is there a school that will yield the same result with a smaller price tag? With the average student debt upon graduation at $28,000 and climbing, it is especially important that your teen weigh the costs against the benefits if a loan is involved.
Help your teen understand the impact of their choice on the family as a whole. Now that they are nearing adulthood, they are better able to understand that the money may simply not be there and that they may have to make an alternate plan. Now is not the time to protect them from the facts, so trust that your child can handle the truth.
Make sure your teen has a Plan B (and a Plan C!). It’s always good to have options already on the table in the event that Plan A just isn’t feasible. It’s your job as a parent to help them through these tough realities, and to help them understand that there is more than one route to achieving their career goals.