What To Say When You Can’t Afford Your Student’s Dream School

Person with Hands wide open and holding a pile of pennies with "college fund" written on a piece of paper

What To Say When You Can’t Afford Your Student’s Dream School

Published October 7, 2023

Person with Hands wide open and holding a pile of pennies with "college fund" written on a piece of paper

Your child got into their dream school, but you can’t afford it. You’re not alone! So many parents find themselves having a difficult conversation with their children about affordability, and it’s never easy. 

You probably feel guilty that you can’t afford their dream school, but it’s not your fault. College tuition has skyrocketed in recent years, and many families find they need loans, scholarships, grants, and more just to be able to afford a basic higher education, let alone a dream school that may be out of state, private, or simply out of reach for other reasons.

This guide can help you learn how to navigate the challenging conversation that comes after your child learns that they’ve been accepted to their top pick. The good news is that there are many schools out there and many paths that students can take, including beginning their journey at a more affordable school and perhaps transferring over. Still, being honest with them about the role you can play financially is imperative, so there are no surprises. These tips may help get that conversation started.

When faced with being unable to afford your child’s dream college, it’s important to have open and supportive conversations. Here are some things you can consider saying to your child in such a situation:

Express Your Pride: Begin the conversation by expressing how proud you are of their achievements and the fact that they were accepted into their dream college. So many students don’t even get accepted to their dream schools, so that accomplishment alone is worth celebrating. 

Acknowledge Their Feelings: Let them know that you understand their disappointment and any frustration or sadness. It’s essential to validate their emotions.

Be Honest About Finances: Clearly explain the family’s financial situation and the reasons why affording their dream college may be a challenge. Use simple and straightforward language to avoid any confusion.

Explore Financial Aid Options: Mention that you’re willing to explore financial aid options, scholarships, grants, and other forms of assistance to see if there’s a way to make it work.

Encourage Flexibility: Suggest looking into more affordable alternatives that still offer a strong education and align with their goals. Emphasize that the name of the college is not the only factor that determines their success. Sometimes, exploring new options can lead to unexpected discoveries.

Emphasize the Importance of Education: Reiterate your commitment to their education and personal growth, regardless of where they attend college. Highlight that success is not solely dependent on the institution.

Support Their Decision: Ultimately, respect their decision, whether it’s to attend the dream college with financial challenges, choose an affordable alternative, or take a gap year to reassess their goals.

Offer Reassurance: Remind them that your love and support are unwavering. Their dreams and ambitions are important to you, and you’ll continue to support them in pursuing their goals.

Plan for the Future: Discuss how you can work together to plan for their future education and career goals, even if it means starting at a more affordable institution and transferring later.

Seek Professional Advice: Consider seeking advice from a financial advisor or a college counselor who can provide additional guidance on financial planning and alternative education options.

Remember that having an open, empathetic, and understanding conversation is crucial. Listen to your child’s perspective and feelings, and be a source of support as they navigate this important decision in their educational journey.

_______

Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Determining Your College Budget: Affordability vs. What You’re Willing to Pay

How to Make Affordable Colleges Even More Affordable

A Family’s Journey to Find an Affordable College

JOIN ONE OF OUR FACEBOOK GROUPS & CONNECT WITH OTHER PARENTS: 

PAYING FOR COLLEGE 101

HOW TO FIND MERIT SCHOLARSHIPS

In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

Dear Roadie: Should I Drug-Test My Son to Ensure He’s Not Wasting His College Tuition?

Advice

Dear Roadie: Should I Drug-Test My Son to Ensure He’s Not Wasting His College Tuition?

Dear Roadie, My son will be attending a school that costs $80,000 per year. Am I crazy for wanting him...

How Much College Can You Really Afford? Take These 3 Simple Steps For The Answer

Advice

How Much College Can You Really Afford? Take These 3 Simple Steps For The Answer

After sending four kids to college with a fifth on the way there soon, I’ve learned a thing or two...

Dear Roadie: Should I Move to a Different State for Free Tuition?

Advice

Dear Roadie: Should I Move to a Different State for Free Tuition?

Dear Roadie, We are considering moving to New Mexico for my daughter’s final high school years as I’ve read in-state...

Become a Member

At Road2College you’ll find everything you need to make the admissions and paying for college process less stressful and more transparent.

TOOLS

Explore R2C Insights™ — your source for finding affordable colleges and merit scholarships.

Coaching

Get coaching on admissions and college financing.

Community

Join Road2College where parents and experts work together to inform and inspire college-bound families.