Read your contracts and financial aid forms before signing!

Before you sign any financial aid documents—or your cell phone contract, for that matter—make sure you know what you’re getting into

Read your contracts and financial aid forms before signing!

Have you ever signed any contracts?

If not, you will soon. When you head off to college, you may be signing a promissory note for student loans or a rental agreement on housing.

If you have your own cell phone, you need to read and understand your contract. If you have a credit card, you need to take the time to read the fine print before signing.

Millions of Americans sign contracts every day and never read the fine print. As a result, they find themselves committed to terms they did not understand—and they will pay the price for not asking questions.

A portion of the country’s financial crisis is due to people not reading and understanding the fine print of contracts they have signed for things such as mortgages and credit cards.

Contracts are legal binding documents. By law, all terms must be spelled out in a contract. But often, these terms are so lengthy and confusing that we just sign and don’t read the fine print. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Don’t sign unless you are 100 percent sure you understand everything in the contract.

Know your rights and responsibilities. If there are late fees, finance charges or interest being charged, it must be stated in the contract. Keep a copy of your contracts in a safe place in case disputes arise.

The bottom line is that, when you sign your name, you are agreeing to what is stated on the paper, even if you don’t understand it. So make sure you understand it before signing!

Anne Barton is regional director for business development of the National Student Loan Program (

Choose the word that matches the definition to see how much you know about contracts.

1. Having to do with the law ________________________________

2. A signed document containing a written promise to pay a stated sum to a specified person or the bearer of the note at a specified date or on demand

3. Binding agreement between two or more persons that is enforceable by law. _____________________________

4. Executed with proper legal authority _________________

5. An official paper stating information ____________________________

6. A fixed charge for borrowing money; usually a percentage of the amount borrowed.

7. A statement of what is required as part of an agreement.

8. When you write your name, such as at the end of a letter.

9. A regular payment by a tenant to a landlord for use of some property.

10. An understanding by two or more persons or groups, such as a treaty or contract.



Answer bank:
a. Interest
b. Binding
c. Contract
d. Terms
e. Legal
f. Promissory note
g. Rent
h. Agreement
i. Signature
j. Document

Answer key:
1-e; 2-f; 3-c; 4-b; 5-j; 6-a; 7-d; 8-i; 9-g; 10-h


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