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The college process is stressful, and figuring out financial plans can be even more. No matter how much you want to avoid it or how painful the conversation might seem it’s important to have the financial talk with your parents and have it early. Navigating the financial aid talk can be a daunting challenge but knowing the rights things to say and questions to ask will help make it easier for you and your parents.

1. Ask Questions

The main question being do they plan on helping you pay for college. Many kids expect their parents will support them financially through college and many parents do, but there are also parents who cannot or just flat out refuse to pay for any more schooling. This is something you have to be prepared for because legally you are an adult and they don’t have to pay for your education. Asking this question first will help decide the course of the rest of the conversation. This is also a good time to ask about loans, cosigning, financial aid, and more.

2.Talk Money

In many cases parents don’t like to discuss money or money problems around their children to save them from worrying. However, there’s no room to tip-toe around the subject when it’s time to apply to colleges. It will be useful to have the money conversation before you set your sights on specific schools so you know what is financially a reach and what is affordable. This does not mean that the schools are impossible to attend, but it does mean you should look into other means of payment for those schools.

3. Explore Your Options

Even if your parents are going to help you pay for college it’s also nice to have extra money in the bank or to use for stocking your dorm, textbooks, travel money, and other things you will need. You should start by looking for scholarships exclusively for the schools you plan on attending and then search for larger scholarships.

Though these may require you to set aside extra time to write essays, fill out paperwork or even go on interviews it’s a good chance that you will receive an award from at least one organization. You should also look into summer jobs, work study jobs on campus, or off-campus jobs though this may be stressful if you’re moving to a new area for school. It’s better to find these things sooner rather than later so you can give your parents time to get any financial information or documents prepared for you as well as recommendations.

4. Make a Plan

Talk to your parents about what your plans are before you commit to a school. Make sure you have agreed on how involved financially they are going to be in your college journey and let them know what you plan on doing personally to pay for school.

The college process is stressful in general but financial aid is even more. The last thing you want to happen is to get into the school of your choice and not be able to attend for financial reasons. The less stress you’re under the more time you can enjoy the last few months of school.

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