College is awesome. Paying for it? Not so much.
I really didn’t want to take my parents’ money for school. I’d been offered a full ride to a school I didn’t love, while my first choice offered me a tiny bit of money. I went with my heart (and, really, with Rate My Professor) and went for the school I’d have to pay for. I needed a student loan.
Most students have to take out student loans to pay for higher education. The problem is, most students don’t read the fine print of their paperwork. And with the economy the way it is, a lot of students have a hard time finding jobs once they graduate to pay them off.
I didn’t want to be one of those people. I was reluctant to borrow anything to begin with because my personality is just so against it. Seriously, I’m that friend who freaks out if you throw in an extra three bucks to cover my portion of the bill at Applebee’s. I will stress until you get your money back, and I will likely pay you interest because I feel so guilty about it.
Still, I filled out my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid…you should too!), took a long look at all of my paperwork, and sucked in all of the information.
I knew there were ways to prevent and get out of debt, at least somewhat. I decided I was going to get out of my debt as soon as possible and I did. I paid my loan off right away (as in, literally right when I graduated)… But it wasn’t easy, and a lot of the time, it wasn’t fun.
From Freshman year until I graduated, I not only had a full load of classes, I held down three jobs: one promoting music videos, one at a coffee shop, and one at my campus alumni magazine. I also had side gigs here and there doing PR for local bands as well as a few unpaid internships. College is hard enough–but college plus a bazillion other responsibilities? I didn’t really realize how tough it would be to pay off my debt ASAP until I was in the thick of it. My life revolved around balancing writing papers with my work schedule. When I interned in New York City, I did a lot of my readings for class on the train. When my barista gig got slow (usually post-dinner time), I’d bust out a book or jot down notes for a paper I’d be working on. It was all work, and then when work was over, there was a different kind of work to do–homework!
A big part of the college experience is, yes, partying–something I pretty much completely skipped out on because when I wasn’t working or studying, I was too sleepy to function. And because going out can be expensive, I missed a lot of tagged photos (which, now that I think about it, is probably for the best), a lot of inside jokes, and a lot of cute guys in really messy houses.
I probably didn’t have nearly as much fun in school as a lot of my friends did, but I’m also not paying for it as dearly now. A lot of gals my age are in massive debt or had to drop out because they couldn’t afford to go to school anymore, whether due to bad luck or poor decisions. Working and going to school isn’t for everyone, and it’s certainly no cake walk, but if you can manage it, I promise you it’s totally worth it–just know with eyes wide open what you’re in for!
Why is it worth it, though? For one, I got rid of a lot of the immediate pressure to get a job as soon as I graduated because I didn’t have to worry about my debt hanging over my head–which isn’t to say I wasn’t looking, I just didn’t feel forced to settle right away for something that wasn’t right for me. I’m doing what I love–writing for you! That’s incentive enough for me.
Another more serious incentive? When you add in interest rates, some of my buds will still be paying off college loans when they’re 50 years old. Let that sink in: 50. Years. Old. Some of their kids will be in college by then. They’re going to have debt and wrinkles. Sure, I’ll probably have wrinkles, too, but I’ll be able to spring for Botox.
Are you considering a student loan? Have you applied for scholarships? Could you balance work and school? Talk to us in the comments!