Six conversations to have with your younger sibling about college

Older and wiser? Share your college know-how with your younger siblings.


As an older sibling, you’ll likely experience many firsts of your family: First kid to drive, attend prom, make a varsity sport, and eventually, go to college. Although these milestones can be exciting, you’re also establishing an example for your younger siblings to follow.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your younger siblings may make important life decisions based on your experiences and the precedent you’ve set — for instance, if you excelled on the debate team, they might decide to join, too.

And though you’ve been away at college, you can still be an example for your younger brothers or sisters. Here are six conversations to have with your younger sibling about the ins and outs of the college experience.

1. How to balance schoolwork

Homework in college is very different than homework in high school. First, classes are inconsistent (maybe only once or twice a week), and so you may not have consistent homework every day. Second, if you don’t complete your work you won’t get in trouble like in high school — but it will be reflected in your grade at the end of the semester. Talk to your siblings about differences like this, so they know what to expect come freshman year.

2. How to spend smart

For many people, college means financial independence. What have you learned about budgeting your money? What expenses have taken you by surprise? How much spending money have you typically needed each month? And how have your parents helped you pay for things — or reacted when you’ve overspent? By sharing this first-hand knowledge with your siblings, they can enter college with a game plan for spending and saving on their own.

3. How to communicate with Mom and Dad

Parent-teen relationships can vary from family to family: Some college students may talk with their mom and dad every day, while others check in once a week. Tell your younger sibling about the level of communication you’ve had with your parents while at school. The frequency of your communication will likely set the standard for them, so it’s helpful to know.

4. How to ease homesickness

Real talk: As great as college can be, even the most independent students can find themselves missing home now and then. If you’ve experienced homesickness, talk to your sibling about it. Share how you got over it (or are trying to). This may be an eye-opener and can help them think about how far away from home they should go for school.

5. How to find a good group of friends

As you’re well aware, it can be nerve-wracking to go away to college and not know anyone. Talk with your sibling about how you’ve made friends outside of your dorm — whether by joining clubs, playing a sport, or simply striking up a conversation while in class. By assuring your sibling that they’ll be able to find a friend group — and sharing how you did it — you’ll likely lower their freshman-year anxiety.

6. How to recover from mistakes

Did you make the mistake of waiting five weeks to do laundry? Stay out too late the night before an exam? Accidentally oversleep the morning of your 8 a.m. class? Have a misunderstanding with your roommate? Share any missteps and lessons learned with your sibling — these will give them a glimpse into campus life and can be fun way to stay connected.