Do Family and Finances Mix? How to Ask Relatives to Pitch in for Your Tuition

Find helpful advice for requesting college financial aid help from relatives. Visit today.They applauded your first steps, showered you with presents at birthdays, and will probably cry at your high school graduation. But is there a chance that some of your relatives might also help you with college costs?

Maybe so. As you explore scholarships, loans, work-study programs, and other opportunities, think about the possibility of relatives besides your parents pitching in…

  • grandparents
  • aunts and uncles
  • godparents
  • older brothers and sisters
  • “honorary” aunts and uncles
  • a relative who’s an alumnus of your college

If you think a relative is in a position to help, check with your parents first to see if it’s appropriate.

Approaching a relative takes courage—but you can do it! Be professional, and make an “appointment.”

You might say, “Uncle Jack, I’ve been doing some thinking about my future, and wondered if I could come over some night this week and talk to you and Aunt Catherine.”  When you sit down and talk, make your “presentation” clear, concise, and complete. Here’s a way to start:

“Grandpa, as you know, I really want to go to college after graduation. I have a 3.1 grade point average, my test scores are pretty good, and I’m really committed to getting a degree in business. But I’m having trouble coming up with the financing.”

You might ask for specific help such as “I’m taking out a loan myself but is there any way you could pay half/part of my tuition?” Or, keep it general, “Is there any way you can help me out?”

Follow these additional tips:

  • Know what all your college costs will be.
  • Always offer to let them think it over.
  • Be prepared for the offer of a loan, and be ready to talk about how that can work.
  • Let them know there will be no “hard feelings,” no matter what the decision.

If you’re a better writer than talker, or if the person lives out of town, consider making your request in writing.

Or, instead of approaching a specific relative, here’s a tip from Helen Allen, associate director of financial aid at the University of Alabama. “It doesn’t hurt to let your entire family know that you want to go to college but are facing financial challenges,” Allen says. “Also let people know if you have a great GPA or test scores. Spread the word about needing help and it might prompt a relative to come forward.”


This article was written by Jane Schreier Jones

Jane Schreier Jones is a freelance writer whose work includes hundreds of articles in the field of education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/journalism from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

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