Contract for College Freshman?

Updated on February 07, 2011
M.M. asks from Allen, TX
18 answers

Has anyone made a contract with your college freshman about what is expected when they go off to school? Our son graduates HS this year and will be off to college. He is a good kid with good sensibilities but I think it would be wise to sit with him before he leaves and say, these are your parameters. Obviously he has to make reasonable grades and stay out of trouble, but what else do you really expect from your kids when they go to college? What are the big "life changers" that we should reiterate one last time? I don't think he will get into trouble, but I feel like as a parent, I need to have said drugs, babies, marriage, cheating on tests, If you drink, do it in moderation and don't drive, nor ride with anyone who has been drinkng, ....what else are the big life changers?

Thanks ladies.

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So What Happened?

exhaling here. He is a great kid and has never caused us a lick of trouble. I think it's more about me than him. He got acceptance letters this week and I guess it all hit me. It was just yesterday we met that sweet baby. You're are all right and you offer a wealth of information. It would be insulting. Shame on me for being so selfish. I have always treated my kids like the adults I expect them to grow into and none of them have disappointed me. He will do well. I guess the first one to go is the toughest.

EDIT # 2 - More great ideas! Thank you so much. I have been on a mission since the kids were little to teach life skills. My mom did it all for me and whew! what a schok when I moved out to my own apartment at 18. My kids have worked and even had their own businesses since they were around 8 - pet sitting, yard work, exercising horses, farm and ranch help. They have learned to ask for a job, negotiate pay, create invoices and manage accounts receivables....all on a small scale, but they are quite adept for their ages (14,14 & 18). We don't give money to them, they have to earn all spending money, but do have ample opportunity to do so. They all know how to save....although, that being said, they haven't really done a "budget". Great suggestion, as the temptation for more wants will inevitably increase. They all started to learn to cook, clean a bathroom, do laundry, paint a room - life skills sorts of things also starting at about 8. My mom was 19 when she had me. I was 35 and 39 when I had them and have been focussed on packing in teaching them all they are willing to learn as soon as they are willing to learn it. So far, they've been great! I love all your comments as it helps me to ensure I cover all of the important bases. I also hadn't considered getting sick on campus. It's been 100 years since I was in college and I was a commuter not a dorm kid. Keep the ideas coming! I love this wonderful community of moms.

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answers from Dallas on

I think open communication is key. Trust that you have taught him well.

I would be insulted if my parents sat me down to sign a contract. It would signal to me that they were not confident in my ability to do the right thing.

This is the time to let go, let him become the man you have taught him to become. When he messes up, he has to face that responsibility and that is how he learns.

I'm all for open communication but not for writing contracts and keeping his mindset that he is still a child to you. We have to let go, have faith that we did well as parents and watch them grow and leave the hard as it is.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

The reality is you have either already taught him these things or you haven't. A 'contract' isn't going to make a difference.

My parents, as they sent me off to Chico State (which was the no. 1 'party' school at the time) never had to restate what they had already taught me. This was the time I learned to create my own 'rules' to make my life work. For instance, even though I pretty much went out each night, my rule for myself was that I had to finish my studies or homework before I went out. Had my mother told me this, I would have probably ignored it. It was the creating and following my own idea of what could work, that made me successful.

I also knew that the financial cord would be pulled if I failed to acheive good grades. Perhaps because I went to an all girls Catholic private high school, my parents were not worried about me having sex and therefore creating babies. So it was probably my upbringing that kept me out of trouble.

He is a good kid with good sensiblilities ...let him show you that he is a good young man with good sensiblities.

6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

It's an interesting idea. We did not do this with our oldest two. They were very clear about all these rules from age 14 on, and followed them mostly. And the few times they didn't, we were able to work through and all learn from. I think they might have been insulted by this, since we had built up trust all through high school in these areas. They both are now college grads, one finished in 3.5 years, and one is now in a Masters program.

Instead of talking about rules, I would talk about outcomes. What are the things he wants out of college and beyond? How is he going to make these things happen? I think having positive goals and outcomes in mind is most helpful for all of us to manage our day to day behaviors and actions.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hi M M,

No real contract, but I have a few thoughts. I've sent two off to college and one thing I learned is that you will have little control. Your son will be 18 and of legal age. I'm not sure a contract is a way to go because part of going to college is you relinquishing control.

We did however explain that we only pay for a class once, and we stuck with it. One of our sons, who is incredibly responsible, procrastinated and didn't get the help he needed early on. It was his junior year and really his only mistake. But it was his mistake to own. He failed a class. The problem was it was a required course for his major. We struggled with making him responsible for it because he was such a good kid, but we wanted him to own it and so when he had to re-take the course he had to pay for it. Not reimburse us. So, I would suggest you do your best to have your son have a savings account with money set aside for this possible event. We all make mistakes, after all.

I'd say, yes, have the talks, but be a little careful about imposing too much pressure. Your boy will be dealing with a lot of new things. Keeping up with everything on his own for the first time and that is a lot to handle. The social part of college is important too. He will be learning about choices and navigating life.

We learned to let the grades go just a bit. I don't mean tell him it is okay to make crummy grades, but I wouldn't demand too much. Be happy if he maintains a decent grade level. For some kids that would be passing all subjects! If your son is over worrying about disappointing you that won't help. And from what you described he sounds like he wants to make good grades, so why make too big a deal.

Again, have the talk. And when you talk to him on the phone always end with "I love you. Please make good choices."

That's my two cents.

Best to you. It's hard to let them go.


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

This is just my opinion, but if my parents had done that before I went to college, I would have felt like they had no respect for me, especially since I paid for 90% of my college and expenses. To me, that seems like you are reiterating that he is a child and needs to be told how to act. College is supposed to be a time to venture out and start growing up, but to sit him down and say these are your parameters seems like you are trying to keep him within the rules of your household. If you are paying for college, you definitely have a right to tell him to keep his grades up. It seems like he's been taught all of these good things while he was young, so I wouldn't have a sit down and go over all of them again and I especially wouldn't draw up a contract. If you're going to have a sit down, I would rather bring up how you are proud of him, that he is growing up and that you hope he will continue to make good decisions as he moves on with his life. That puts more focus on him making those decisions for himself, rather than because you told him to. Of course, I am saying this all now and I only have a 4 year old, so take all of this with a grain of salt....I may be changing my tune in a few years! I am just looking at this from my perspective and how that would have made me feel when I went off to college. It's hard to let them go, but don't take away your son's excitement of finally starting to feel like an adult by going to college. Good luck!

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answers from Albany on

Yes, of course share your concerns with him.
But here's the thing, college is a personal choice. There is no LAW that says he has to go, and furthermore since is is technically an adult, there is nothing at this point you can 'make' him do.

This is where you sit back, take a deep breath, hope and pray you've instilled enough self respect and desire to excel at life, support him, cheer him on, and CUT THE STRING!

I mean, if he gets a bad grade, what are you gonna do, ground him? Ridiculous!

(I say this from the heart, I have an 18 yo who went of to college in September. He his holding his own, having a blast, experiencing new things, keeping his 3.83 GPA alive. He was not a troublesome teenager, in fact he never once while in HS went out with friends who were driving, tried a beer, smoked, nothing. I realize he is an unusual teenager, I also realize he's trying it NOW, while I'm not there. But he WANTS to be successful, he LIKES being a brain.....I should add, he after his scholarships Pell Grants and a little help from his Dad, he will be paying for much of his own education.)

There is no contract, and it's very SCARY relinquishing that moment to moment control you think you had in his life while under your roof, but it's ultimately up to HIM, not you, what he gets out of college.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I say no contract.the reason i say this is he is an adult and you do have to cut the strings sometime. mine went to job corp and they made the contract with him not me and he grew up alot. he graduated and got out and realized he also needed hvac to go with his job corp training. so he is in hvac school right now. I made no contract with him. he is doing his homework on his own without being told getting a tutor when needed and the tutor is helping him understand what he didnt understand in highschool math. i told him when he finds a tutor he clicks with stay with that one patiticular tutor and not to use another one. he said mom i already have. he is making wise choices I am guiding him but not telling him what to do. he is already making the choices I suggest I am just suggesting them to late and its reinforcing to him he is making the right decisions on his own. as long as he can say mom I already did that he is making the right choices without adult interference. you have to learn to trust him. you have to learn to let go and he has to learn life on his own. if he was a good kid at school why are you worried about him now. if he never so to speak got in trouble growing up he isnt going to start now. the morals are already in place. you obviously did a good job of raising him and he learned to listen at a young age and that is not going to change. but if you treat him like a kid he is going to get upset with you for it. all that needs to be said is "you know what I expect and I trust you are old enough to do what is right"

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answers from Austin on

I do not know how anyone can take away their college students laptop and cell phone.. That is how our daughter takes notes in class and has to research and turn in her homework for her classes.. and the Cell phone is a SAFETY item before anything else...

Never take these away from COLLEGE students.. it is like sending them to school with no pencils and paper and no way to get in contact with them..
They need this for their own protection in cases of emergency while out there on their own..

Funny, we did not make a contract, we made promises. "If you do well, you will be able to stay" because she was on scholarships and grants and had to keep a GPA that is what she knew was going to decide if she could afford to stay. . Also her college has expectations for their students. They signed agreements about cheating, and drinking..

She also knew that we trusted her to continue to use her best judgments.

She is now in her second semester of her junior year and has done great.

Remember, they are now legally adults. The only thing you control is the money.

You have to trust that they know your values and what you would like for them to do.. This is what you have been working on their entire lives. To let them go and do the right things and make their best decisions.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

If you trust him enough to let him go off to college, then trust that he will make the right decisions while he is there. I really don't think a contract is necessary if he knows what your expectations are and more importantly the consequences for screwing up. Also, please remember that even "good kids" can get in trouble. Freshman year can be overwhelming and peer pressure is rampant. It's awfully hard to get along with roommates in such close quarters. Having a college freshman of my own last year, I can say it was quite a roller coaster, and a very eye-opening experience for all of us! Lastly, please don't give him your approval to drink even "in moderation" freshman are not of legal drinking age and can get in serious trouble if caught with alcohol. Believe me, you don't want him to jeopardize his college career or face disciplinary charges for doing something stupid. He may do it anyway, but at least you can warn him in advance about it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lynchburg on

I agree with sue regarding having had expectations for behavior while they were home...and now to focus on 'their' life expectations relative to college...

I did, however, reinforce with them that college was a 'four year plan' MAXIMUM! lol

The eldest graduates this may...and on to law school 'on' the army...Next is a junior...graduating early in is an 'on schedule' a rising freshman (with many AP credits going in)...and so on.

As a side note...while I have missed them while they are gone...what FUN we have when they come home. I truly enjoy the adults they are becoming!

Best Luck

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

Well, I have a junior in high school so I will soon face these issues too.

IMHO a conversation will suffice. I.e., we will probably sit down with son and explain that no matter where he goes, he will always do better in the long run adhering to his values. He knows right from wrong. If he's not sure he should consult the Bible and respected people in his life.

We do not financially support other adults (including our children). Should said adult child be in school, or getting launched in his life, we will help - but we will not help in any activities which we believe are to his detriment (that's just common sense). We consider a college education a privilege, not a "right."

Though I think you're very smart to think ahead, imho the problem with a contract is that it pins you down to specifics. This is more of a broad "values" sort of issue.

Good luck and I hope all goes well (it probably will).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

This isn't exactly along the lines of a contract, but does he know how to do laundry? And how often?

Does he know how to keep his room/belongings clean and in good working order?

Can he cook? He may be living in a dorm and eating in a cafeteria now, but someday he'll want to be in an apartment and need to know how to feed himself something other than frozen foods and take-out.

You still have some time to help him brush up on the basic life skills. And, while he may "roll his eyes at you" now, he will thank you later!



answers from Dallas on

Some possibilities... keep good attendance, no unauthorized roommates, no credit cards or credit lines unless you are consulted and to graduate in the expected time line.



answers from Tyler on

As a person who has been a college professor for the last 25 years I would suggest including or at least talking about the need to go to class regularly even though it may seem that it doesn't matter to anybody (it actually does we just often let students take on the responsibility for getting there.). Students also often don't know what to do if they get sick-usually there is a school clinic, students almost always think they provide bad service, some are actually good some deserve there reputation. No matter how good they are they are they can't help if students don't go in or don't do as instructed. I know that as a mother you might want him to come home when sick, but this may not be a practical answer if there is much distance and the illness is minor or brief - it could even lead to putting off seeking help until things get bad instead of dealing with it while it is still minor. In any case this is something that a lot of students go off to school without a clear understanding of what they are to do. Finally, I suggest something about whatever you expect in terms of financial responsibility. This one varies greatly from family to family, but if everyone isn't clear about expectations great friction can develop.

It is great that you are thinking ahead and setting out expectations clearly instead of assuming these things are just understood without discussion.



answers from Tyler on

You know, the one thing you didn't mention was money. My parent's didn't really go over the things you listed with me at all (assumed I knew the rules on those things by then, I guess). But, what they did tell me was, "We will pay X dollars towards your education and not a penny more." X dollars was about 45% of my tuition. SO, the rest of my tuition, room and board, money for books, etc. was up to me. THAT kept me busy - I had to work like crazy just to have money by the time the next quarter rolled around. Thta's one way to stay out of trouble! But also - it totally set the expectation. Further, as tuition increased each year, their share did not go up at all, so I had to find more ways to earn money.

Good luck



answers from Dallas on

For me one of the mistakes I made was not handling money very well. I didn't set a monthly budget and was out of money by Thanksgiving. I didn't have a job nor a monthly stipend from Mom and Dad, but if I'd been smarter about it I could have made my summer job money last through the freshman year.



answers from Tyler on

Dont forget falling in love!!! Or getting hurt in a relationship.



answers from Dallas on

handling finances is very important
time management
how often to call home
if they are not on a meal plan, menu planning

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