Tips for Talking with Parents About College

Real insight from first generation college students + grads

Support in more than one way

“Don't ask them for money, ask them to send you care packages - one the biggest things my mom did was send me care packages with new underwear, toiletries, packaged and canned goods, and leftovers. It helped me stress less about the little things and focus on the reason I was there, to get my education.”

Felicia Drayton
Eastern Michigan University, 2012, Business Management
Conversation starters

“Sometimes it's difficult to talk to parents about college when they don't really know exactly what you're going through or can't relate. I often find academics a difficult topic to discuss with my parents (especially with a language barrier). Instead, I'll talk about the extracurricular activities/organizations I'm in or any events I'm looking forward to. I'll also talk about anything related to my college lifestyle - my friends, roommate(s) / housemate(s), dorm, dining hall food, exercise, and so forth. I would mainly recommend that first gen students request that parents be more open-minded throughout your college experience. As your environment changes, you might change too and it's important that your family is there to support whatever changes you undergo.”

Michelle Mu
Tufts University, 2018, Biology
Connecting parents to college

"I found it helpful to go to a professor or campus employer and say 'Hey, Would you be able to talk to my parents a little bit about what I'm doing here?' Sometimes parents are more comfortable communicating with adults, and even if your parents don't get much out of that conversation, your professor or campus employer will gain more insight about your experience as a first gen student."

Hunter Zhao
University of Michigan, 2018, History & Sociology
Fulfilling my own path

"I believe the most important thing for me to realize, as a student, was that my mother had her own dreams and aspirations for me. My mother did not finish college, but had dreams of becoming a nurse and practicing in the medical field. Both her and I had to come to grips that my life was my own, and that I was going to make mistakes to learn from. I majored in English, and my passion was working with students, not being in a hospital. She had to learn to let me live my life, let go and love from afar, being proud of what I had accomplished, even if this was not her vision for me. You being in college is an accomplishment in itself, and your parents will be proud of you for getting that far."

Antonio Junior-Robins
University of Michigan, 2013, English
Helping parents understand

“I think the most important thing for me was to recognize that my parents wouldn't understand everything. I couldn't throw around terms like major or minor, declaration, transcripts, etc. and expect for them to understand. I had to be intentional and explain -- that was the best way for them to learn and be supportive! All my life they were the "teacher" and I was the "student" and while in college I felt like I was teaching them so much!”

Leonora Lucaj
University of Michigan, 2013, Psychology

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