mother and daughter talking about college at home

How to Talk to Your Teenager About College

Talking to your child isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to talking about college. Here’s some advice to help you and your family better communicate throughout your child’s college search process.

Start the conversation.

Whether this comes in the form of an impromptu discussion over dinner or a full-on family meeting, the important thing is to open the lines of communication. This includes sharing your expectations and learning your child’s preferences.

For example, does your child have any colleges or majors already in mind? Are you hoping they’ll consider other options? Also, who will be paying for what? If you’re footing the bill, do you have certain cost restrictions?

Being open and honest with one another now about college can help you avoid any incorrect assumptions later on.


When your child shares their hopes for the future with you, listen to them. Acknowledging that you care about what they’re saying and that they are part of the decision-making process is crucial, even if you have differing opinions.

The day your child was born, you probably pictured who they were going to someday become, and you’ve likely held a lot of hopes and dreams for them ever since. It’s wonderful that you care so much. Sometimes, though, you can become so wrapped up in your own hopes for someone else that you may fail to realize their goals are different. Showing your child that you’re aware of their goals can go a long way.

mother and son having a conversation about college at home

Let your child take the lead.

Although it may be tempting to sign up for college mailing lists in your child’s name or to schedule their campus visits for them, allow your child to take charge of their own college search. Not only will this help them feel more empowered, but it will also better prepare them for college itself.

If you feel like your child is less than proactive, try not to stress too much. Just because your child isn’t doing anything right now doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about it, and just because your child hasn’t told you they’ve done anything yet doesn’t mean they’ve been sitting idly by. Which leads us to our next point …

Keep the conversation going.

This doesn’t mean that you need to check in with your child weekly, nor do we recommend it unless you want to have one grumpy teenager on your hands. But talk to your child about college occasionally to see if they’ve added any new colleges or majors to their list, if they want to visit any colleges soon, or if they have any questions you might be able to help with.

Make decisions together.

If you continue to keep the lines of communication open, hopefully your family will be on the same page when it comes time for the big decisions, like what colleges your child is applying to or which one they’ll ultimately attend.

Sometimes, though, everyone involved will have a different opinion, and compromises must be struck. If and when this happens, keep in mind that the decisions being made will affect your child the most, so they deserve to have a voice in the process.

We’ll leave you with this: Even the fact that you’re reading a blog on this topic says a lot about how invested you are as a parent. Your child is fortunate to have you in their corner throughout this process, and we wish you the best of luck as you explore colleges together!

UIUC Admissions

We're here for you as you prepare for college. Whether you're looking for guidance on the college search process or have questions about Illinois, we hope our blogs will help!

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