Hello all! I have officially 4 days left at work until my staycation so it’s getting real around here 🙂
I’ve noticed a lot of new readers and subscribers lately and I just wanted to thank you all for checking out my little corner of the internet and taking the time out of your day to engage with me. Whether you comment or not, I really appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my blog.
With that being said, I realize I never told you guys the actual story behind my student loan debt. I just mentioned that I took out loans to get through college which is true, but that’s the short version. I find that with debt we seem to beat ourselves up about how much we owe and neglect to notice how much we don’t owe. For example, that last minute school change or that semester you took off could have saved you a couple thousand dollars off your student loan balance easily.
The truth is, I could’ve and would’ve taken out way more than $20,000if it wasn’t for the man I never knew who helped me make a life changing decision.
Senior Year of High School
Senior year was exciting. Prom was coming up, and I planned on starting college in the fall. I was such a good student that I had enough credits to graduate early in January so I was excited about getting extended time off after 12+ years of going to school each year.
I already knew what college I wanted to go to and I had everything planned out in my head (at least I thought). Even though it seemed like I had it all together, I was nowhere near being the perfect teen. Sometimes I argued with my mom and didn’t listen to my parents. Sometimes I had the audacity to think I knew better than them. You know, normal teen stuff.
I was the 2nd oldest of five children and knowing that my parents hadn’t saved anything to help fund my college education, I knew I would have to rely on financial aid. That’s why I had my heart set on a state university not too far away. My mom supported me attending an affordable state school and we arranged to attend an open house in the spring.
When we got there, we watched a little welcome orientation program about the school and all its glory, then we went to the main event that seemed like some sort of informational fair. We stopped at the first table to talk to a man and after I introduced myself and the area of study I was interested in majoring in, he said something to my mom and I that shocked the heck out of me.
“You don’t need to go here in the fall. Go to community college first and then come back here in two years.”
After an awkward silence my mom agreed with this stranger and told us we should head back home.
I Was Pissed
I had organized the visit carefully and we came all that way just to have a random stranger tell me what he thought I should do with my life, and my mom had the nerve to side with him as if his word was the law. Who the hell did he think he was?!?!
I didn’t understand how hanging out at community college for a few years was going to help. I knew exactly what I wanted to study, found a nice affordable state school, and just couldn’t wrap my head around how it still seemed too expensive for me to attend somehow.
Looking back, I didn’t understand a lot of things about college. I didn’t know that the ‘estimated tuition’ on the university’s website that I was basing my educational expenses off was just that, an estimate. I didn’t factor in the cost of housing, books and materials, extra fees, and how the tuition increased each year. Since I sucked at standardized tests and didn’t score so well on my ACT, I didn’t realize how much taking useless remedial math courses in order to get to college level math would cost me. There were a ton of hidden expenses associated with college that I knew nothing about at 18 and who could blame me?
I Ended Up Listening to the Random Guy
Whether I consciously obeyed his advice or not (my guess is not), I went to community college for two years and took all my general education courses there. I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Communications and transferred to the school I initially intended to attend.
As a transfer and a junior, I was more aware about the costs associated with college and how student loans worked. I still took out loans to get by, but it was not nearly enough as it would have been had I gone to that university freshman year.
Some of my peers took out $40,000-$50,000 in loans easily upon graduation after four years at that school. I was happy I didn’t go that route, and I still ended up getting a wonderful college experience as a transfer. I personally don’t think having a good time in college and meeting friends is worth several thousands of dollars.
I also realized that ‘gen-eds’ were a perfect area to cut college expenses because everyone took them and it didn’t really matter where you took them; they all transferred 99.9% of the time. I was also happy to expose the myth that every employer cares about where you went to college. My current employer never asked to see my degree and just took my word for it.
After I pay off my current debt, I can pursue my other goals and if I ever choose to go back to school for an MBA I’ll organize a plan to pay for it without loans. I’m grateful for my debt and what being in debt has taught me, but I’m also grateful for the debt I didn’t accumulate because it’s changed my life. And I don’t want to give my stubborn teenage self all the credit for my decisions that got me to this point so I’m grateful to the random but very blunt man who gave it to me straight when I wasn’t trying to hear it from anyone else.
Has a stranger ever given you some life-changing advice that started to hit home with you? If you have debt, are you grateful for the amount you don’t owe?
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