The midpoint of the summer is a good time to have important conversations with your teen about their college education.

Since your first tuition payment is likely due in July, it’s also a perfect time for these conversations to take place. Here are some crucial topics to cover with your teen. 

Financial Peer Pressure

Talking about money isn’t always easy, but it’s important, especially if your student is on their own for the first time. Collegewise counselor Jennifer Turano says, “Remind your kids that they are going to encounter students of differing economic means. There will always be people with a lot more and a lot less money than they have, so they should be sensitive to others who can’t afford things and not attempt to keep up with those who seem to be able to pay for everything.”

Let them know if there is a limit to how many semesters you will be paying for.

Jennifer Turano

Academics Expectations

It’s normal to set expectations for your children, especially if you’re helping to pay for their tuition—but, according to Turano, it’s also important to not put an undue amount of pressure on grades. She recommends encouraging them to learn more than what’s on the syllabus. “Open the conversation with what you hope they will learn at school, not just in their classes, but through the people they meet and the activities they can and should engage in,” she says.

That being said, be clear on what would happen to your contribution to their college education should they do poorly academically. “Let them know if there is a limit to how many semesters you will be paying for,” Turano said. “If the ‘five-year plan’ or ‘summer semester’ is not an option, say so now.”


Talk to your child about how to stay healthy, especially if they’re going to school away from their hometown doctors and dentist. You won’t be around to schedule appointments, and if they are staying on your health insurance, then they may need help finding in-network providers close to campus. Also address basic nutrition principles, as this is likely the first time your teen will be making 100% of their own food decisions.


The school will likely have a session on campus safety during orientation, but it’s important for you to impart some of your wisdom, too. Be sure your child knows to avoid walking alone at night and consider signing them up for a basic self-defense class, if it’s not part of their orientation. This is also the time to talk to them about identity theft, especially if college is their first time using their own credit cards online. Dr. Sharon Saline, a clinical psychologist specializing in children, teens and families, recommends addressing the temptations of partying, which are prevalent in college. If you take a nonjudgmental approach in expressing your expectations and are open to their experiences, she says, you’ll likely have the most honest conversation.

Time Management

Similar to their nutrition, college may be the first time your student is managing their own schedule. You won’t be there to remind them of appointments and for some college courses, there’s no immediate penalty for missing class. Paul E. Compeau of Bridgewise College Planning recommends helping your student figure out how to set their own structure and manage workloads. Discuss how your student will go about the average day before they’re faced with a slew of free time and idle hands.


“Discuss how often, when, and by what means will you communicate,” counselor Monique Adorno-Jimenez of ECMC Student Resources says. Try to avoid extremes of smothering or “divorcing” your student to the point where you don’t speak until fall break.

Saline notes that it’s important to keep your student’s individual communication styles in mind when devising a system that works for you both. “Some kids like to have a regular [scheduled] time but most feel constrained by the ‘every Sunday evening’ structure,” she says. “My clients with college-age kids do better when they text first and ask their kids for a conversation, allowing the student to suggest a time that works for them.”

Psychologist Wyatt Fisher advises scheduling a coffee or lunch date to chat about these college topics with your student. Plan in advance so you both come prepared for these potentially challenging conversations. He also reminds parents that these are discussions, not lectures. Your kid will have more than enough of those once the semester begins

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