Skip to main content

A Stress-Free Guide to Talking about College with Younger Children

young girl saving money in jars
Aimee Yorsaner College Coach Finance Expert

Written by Aimée Yorsaneron October 31st, 2023

Before I joined the college finance team at College Coach, I was the associate director of financial aid at Babson College. Prior to my stint with Babson, I worked as an assistant director of financial aid at Berklee College of Music, MIT, and Boston University. I've spent most of my professional career working in financial aid and have assisted traditional undergraduates, adult learners, and master’s degree students in financing their educations. I have a master’s degree in human resource education, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and a certificate in coaching.
Learn More About Aimée
Many of the educators at Bright Horizons College Coach are also parents of high school students. We are excited to share with you some personal insights on college admission and finance as we navigate this process with our own families. By Aimee Yorsaner, former financial aid officer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology I always knew I wanted to go to college, but not the reason why or what I was going to study—just that I wanted to go. I had a thirst for knowledge and a desire to keep learning and growing. This is what I hope to pass on to my girls: a love of learning. Does this mean they have to go to college? No. I will be the first to admit college isn’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean post-secondary education isn’t important, in whatever form it may take: trades, vocational training, or certificate programs. What’s most important is finding out what path best suits them and fits their goals.  At the same time, I can’t ignore what I see in job postings and in headlines. If you scan recruiting sites, you’ll notice just how many jobs require college degrees, a number that has risen exponentially in the last several decades. In 1937, just 15% of Americans went to college. Today, nearly 60% of jobs in the US require higher education. This has also impacted wages: the pay gap between those with a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree has doubled since the early 1980s. According to the Educations Pays report from The College Board, data suggests that beyond what you expect college to result in (a better job, better health, a better future), higher education changes you. It exposes you to new viewpoints, information, and experiences that shape the way you behave and the choices you make. As this first-generation college kid can confirm, my own college experience gave me more insight than my rural New Hampshire background had ever afforded me. So, you can understand why I’m excited to talk to my daughters about college. But I find myself wondering: When is the right time to do this? Based on my years of experience working with students going through the admission and financial aid process, I’ve decided the elementary and middle school years are not too early to bring up this topic. Now, I am not suggesting college tours for preschoolers or that anyone begin stressing out their kindergartners with mentions of Harvard at the dinner table. Instead, I want to encourage parents to normalize the concept of college during the early grades, and to share their own experiences—or those of family members or friends—with kids of all ages. Here's a stress-free guide to talking about college with younger children:
  • Follow up the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with a conversation about what it takes to get into that profession. Depending on what their dream job is, they might need higher education. Even a princess could benefit from some communications or political science classes under their belt.
  • Check to see if there are fun events at your local college. Sporting events, craft fairs, farmers’ markets, plays, concerts, or debates are opportunities to introduce your children to the diversity and vitality that campuses bring to your community.
  • Ask your kids why they think school is important. Bring up some strong factual points for why education matters, but also share your own subjective, more personal reasons why education has mattered for you or other people in your life.
  • Play “Would you rather?” My seven-year-old often wants to play this game on the way to the bus stop and her favorite question to ask me is, “Would you rather go to school or to work?” I usually answer “school,” because it allows me to share with her all the things I have learned and experiences I have had as a result of continuing my education. When it’s my turn to ask the question, I can offer up fun ultimatums related to hobbies, subjects, and careers to get her thinking about her own preferences. 
  • Welcome the stories of others. Whenever friends come to town, my girls ask how we know them. These visits afford us opportunities to talk about our time in college and the lifelong friendships we formed. For parents who didn’t attend college but would like to have these types of casual, non-stressful conversations about higher education, welcoming in friends and other family members is a great way to get kids comfortable asking questions and learning about the variety of experiences out there.

When is the right time to get started? How can you keep my child on track? Get all the answers to your most pressing questions.


Interested in learning more about how our college admissions counseling services can help your student succeed?

Call 877-402-6224 or complete the form for information on getting your student started with one of our experts.

Inclusion Matters Here Pride Flag