Monday, September 12, 2011

College Contracts: Make One With Your College Freshman!

Contracts: They are everywhere in life when something important is on the line. When we start a new job, we sign a contract. When we purchase a house or that new car: a contract. As we embark on weighty events and decisions in life, more often than not, contracts are signed to ensure that all parties involved end up with the results they desire. Sending your child off to college should be no different, because hey, there is a lot on the line! First and foremost, your child's safety, happiness and success. Equally important: those ever-increasing college tuitions and fees. Books, rent, food, parking tickets, gas, insurance and let's not forget that cell phone bill. The list goes on and on. So, how can we be sure that our dear daughter or son is succeeding in college (and not just partying), as we send our hard-earned money off to them each month? It is really quite simple: creat a contract!

I can't tell you how many times I have heard the following scenario: a high school senior has been accepted to their college of choice. It's near the beach and supposedly there is a terrific guy to gal ratio....oh yeah, and they have a good psychology program too. The student admits, "well, my parents said I can go to college and they will pay my expenses, or I can get a job and make it on my own; so I chose college of course." With that attitude, how can the parents or student expect good grades and a fulfilling college experience? They can't. That is where the contract comes into the picture.

Before sending your child off as a freshman, sit them down and work out a contract that makes sense to everyone. In doing this, you give your child the autonomy that they desire as they enter adulthood, while simultaniously ensuring that you maintain control over your finances. Every child is different, and so will be every contract. Let's say hypothetically that you have agreed to pay for your son's tution, fees, rent and books. He has earned a GPA of 3.5 throughout high school, and therefor you can expect roughly the same level of achievement in college. The contract will specify that if he falls below a 3.5 GPA, you will continue to pay tuition and fees, but he will be responsible for financing his rent and books. Should he fall below a 2.5, he is responsible for paying for college entirely. The contract will be individualized completely around your and your child's expectations; but you can see how it will most certainly benefit every one. Additionally, if your 3.5 student surprises you with a 4.0 his first quarter, perhaps a reward (incentive) is in order...maybe you pay his cell phone bill that month.

The details of your contract will be completely individualized to your family, but having a contract could be one of the best decisions you make prior to sending your student off to college. Your child will have an additional insentive to maintain good grades, and you will keep control of your purse strings.

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