5 Conversations About College to Have With Your High Schooler Now

5 Conversations About College to Have With Your High Schooler Now

Getting ready for college takes time and planning -- for best results, start now!

By Wendy Robinson

As someone who has worked in higher education for 15 years and as a parent who survived getting my oldest stepson enrolled at a university, I know firsthand how overwhelming the college-planning process can be for many families. One thing that can make the process even more stressful is waiting too long to start talking about college. The road to college starts well before the senior year, so here are some conversations you should be having now with your teen:

1. How much financial support your child can expect: Does he have a college fund or will he need to rely on financial aid? Are you willing to take out parent loans? Can you afford for him to go out of state? Dr. Laurie Wolf, executive dean at Des Moines Area Community College and former chair of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, says planning for the cost of college “shouldn’t be one conversation in the fall of the senior year,” and that early conversations help a family “explore together how they are going to pay for college.”

2. The importance of high school grades: Most colleges and universities will look at grades from all four years of high school to make admissions and scholarship decisions. Extracurricular activities are great but, in most cases, don’t make up for a low GPA when it comes to getting into college.

3. College options: A four-year residential college might not be the right fit for every student. According to Dr. Toyia Younger, an expert on college transfers, families should explore “all institution types,” including community colleges and technical schools, especially for those who are interested in hands-on career paths, like nursing, computer science, or automotive technology.

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4. Earning college credit in high school: Families should look into whether their school has any partnerships with community colleges to offer college credit through so-called dual enrollment options (this allows a student to earn both high school and college credit through the same course). Younger notes, “You can be a senior in high school and already have earned 15 credits,” which can save time and money.

5. Scholarships: Wolf believes that families should “start looking at scholarships well before senior year,” as many of them have specific requirements for things like grades, community service, or leadership roles that a student may need to work toward all four years of high school.


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The high school years can go by quickly, so it is never too early to have these conversations with your son or daughter. When your child gets that well-known thick envelope in the mail, you’ll be glad you did!

Have you started the college conversation yet?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.wordpress.co.

Image ©iStock.com/digitalskillet

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