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The Money Conversation

October 26, 2020

by Leanne Soulard

Chilly morning air and shorter days. The sound of crunching leaves beneath your feet as you grab a pumpkin spice latte on your way to work. Snuggling up with homemade apple crisp and your laptop as you begin the process of applying for financial aid to reduce the cost of a college education. Ahhh, fall in New England…

The cost of college is, for most families, a major consideration in the decision about where a student will eventually attend school. Over the next few months, parents will complete financial aid forms like the FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE and students will apply for smaller, local scholarships usually advertised through the school counseling office with the hope that the bottom line is something that everyone sees as reasonable. Each family must decide for itself what that bottom line is and if you haven’t already had a conversation about finances, now might be the perfect time to have it.

Discussing finances before the admissions decisions start to come back can help prevent frustration or sadness later on. I’ve gone through a lot of tissues over the years consoling hard-working students, and sometimes parents, who were caught off guard by lower than expected financial aid packages. The fact is that nobody enjoys talking about money. It’s an emotionally-charged subject that brings up all sorts of icky emotions like anxiety, guilt, and fear. I assume that’s why my parents never talked to me about the bottom line but I wish they had, both for their sake and mine. Although I had a very positive college experience, I was truly shocked when I saw the amount of loan debt I had incurred and, even worse, the amount of loan debt my parents had taken on to make it happen. I immediately began to question the value of my education. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have made the same choice had my family been willing to have the money conversation but at least I would have been making an informed decision, which is every student’s right.

Luckily, there are some great resources out there for helping families navigate the financial aid process, including how to structure a conversation about money. You’ll thank yourself later on.

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