Why We’ll Have Our Son Sign A Contract Before College

This June, we watched our only son walk down the aisle of the giant Kentucky arena to accept his high school diploma. A hard-fought diploma. He graduated from the number one school in the state and the 15th-ranked magnet school in the country. He was an A/B student in a sea of 91 valedictorians and 100s more with GPAs above 4.0.

It was a rigorous school that constantly challenged him. There were days he dropped into bed hating school and cried over the kitchen table trying to figure out math or chemistry. But he did it. He crossed the finish line, and we were beaming with pride. But he was exhausted.

We are asking our son to sign a contract about college.

We will pay for our son’s college education.

We thought long and hard about college. All three of us. Did he want four more years of education? Was college the right next step for him? Would a trade school be a better option, or maybe a gap year?

In the end, we let him decide. And he wanted a chance at the college experience and to pursue his career goal of a vocal performance major and an opera career, with music education as a dual major as a backup plan. We embraced his dream, as unconventional as it was to a right-brained engineer, a left-brained creative writer, and an advertising executive.

We had prepared for college and had made financial decisions that put us in a position to cover the expense, but thinking about the enormity of the bills hasn’t come easy. It’s not lost on us that college costs more today than we would ever have imagined.

We both graduated from a large state school, and our four-year tuition was still less than one year of what tuition will cost our son. And on average, graduates are claiming their diplomas with roughly $30,000 in student debt.

We quickly tallied in our mind…one year’s tuition could buy us a nice luxury convertible for traveling across the country. Or be a nice down payment on our retirement vacation home.

Instead, we’re paying for our child’s education.

An education that in today’s marketplace won’t guarantee him a job. Some 40% of graduates take jobs that don’t require their four-year degree.

And if we follow the trend, one that will end up with him moving back home until he can get on his feet. As Forbes reported this year, around 50% of 2019 college grads moved back home.

College was a rite of passage for my husband and me — an opportunity to grow up. To learn to navigate the world before taking that first job, we are happy to provide that same growth journey for our son.

But with a hefty tuition bill, we also want him to understand its gravity.

We aren’t just springing for a new laptop and bike; we’re spending years on hard-earned wages. And with that commitment on our part, we want a commitment from our son. That’s why we’ve elected to make him sign a parent/student contract outlining our expectations.

What do we expect from him academically? What do we expect from him personally? And what we expect from him financially.

We think it’s vital that he understands our expectations ahead of his upcoming August drop-off date. Our parent/student contract will define our expectations of him and what he can expect from us in return.

Our son’s college contract

Here are some of the general ideas we’ll be covering:

Student Responsibilities:


  • Work hard.
  • Attend all classes
  • Maintain a certain GPA.
  • Develop a plan to graduate on time.
  • Provide academic progress reports to home at a set interval.
  • Visit professors within the first two weeks of school to discuss learning needs. (Our son is ADHD and will need appropriate disability resources).
  • Study an appropriate time for each class.
  • Ask for help or seek tutoring before a problem arises.
  • Be responsible for your education.
  • Keep parents informed of matters such as school deadlines.


  • Abide by all college rules.
  • Follow the moral code you were raised with.
  • Establish a strong network of quality friends. (Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future).
  • On holiday/visits home, expect to help with chores.


  • Alert parents of any financial deadlines.
  • Use your money wisely and keep an accurate account.
  • After an appropriate time to acclimate to college, seek employment.

Parent Responsibilities:

  • Pay $_______________ tuition.
  • Pay $_______________ room and board.
  • Pay $_______________ health insurance.
  • Respect boundaries of growing adult.
  • Provide loving support.

We hope that by having our son read the contract and sign it with us, he understands what is expected of him and, more importantly, understands that failure to comply will result in an end to us footing the bill.

Teaching our child that financing his college education is a privilege, not a right, is important to us. We want him to keenly understand that we are placing our money on him, and in doing so, we expect the rewards of his success to pay off with hard work, maximum effort, and ultimately his success.

Here’s to hoping we find ourselves in a full opera house seat shouting “Bravo!” Or just as happy watching our son educate future musicians.

You Might Also Want to Read: 

The 12 Things Every Freshman Needs for College 

The Adulting 101 Syllabus: 20 Life Skills I’m Teaching My Teens This Summer

About Beth Regrut

Beth Renner Regrut is a marketing/advertising executive and freelance writer. She has won numerous awards for her writing, including her most coveted the Silver Quill Award for “Best Business Writing” from the International Association of Business Communicators. She is a frequent contributor on the subjects of self-care and wellness, addiction, learning differences, and home improvement. Beth currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband and son.

Read more posts by Beth

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.