Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Student Loans
by Dee Dee Thompson
I thought if I didn’t go to college, I would end up broke, living at home, working a low paying job, and unhappy. Nine years and two degrees later, I’m in debt, living at home, working a low paying job, and quite frankly… depressed.
There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t ask myself where everything went wrong.
When I think about how my life took such a shit turn, it always comes back to money; specifically loan money. The loans I took out believing once I graduated, I’d have a thriving career that will allow me to start making payments ASAP, but that wasn’t the case for me or millions of Americans like me.
Over 44.2 million Americans carry an estimated $1.48 trillion in education debt. I hate to admit it, but as much as I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, I find the numbers reassuring because it means I’m not alone.
At 20 years old, I didn’t know shit about life, so how was I expected not only to know what I wanted to do, but to manage the financial responsibility of my education?
You’d think someone around me would recognize the significant flaw of expecting this from someone whose brain hasn’t even fully developed. Yet every adult, from my well-meaning parents to my school, the government, and the bank I took a private loan from, made it seem like this debt is typical. I don’t blame my parents because, again, well-meaning… however, putting my finances in the hands of entities that are profiting from my pain made no sense.
Debt for the “college experience” is completely overrated.
I loved my college experience. I did a lot of things and met lifelong friends, but when I’m able to stomach looking at my loan balance, I can’t help but wonder if it was really worth it?
I’ll just say that experiences I couldn’t reasonably afford weren’t worth the debt. I can’t think of all the good times without thinking about what it’s costing me every day. I wish I knew I had plenty of time to have unforgettable experiences that aren’t attached to financial ruin and resentment instead of chasing them in college.
Speaking of resentment, that brings me to my next point…
The debt will probably have you resenting your degree.
I don’t have my degrees hanging up proudly in my parents’ house. Why would I? So I can look at them as a reminder of how little I’ve done with my degree and how much money I owe? I beat myself up over it all the time. No need for a visual reminder of the debt I’m chained to for God knows how long.
Getting a degree without debt is possible.
I know a few people who got multiple jobs, gave up social lives, and went to school part-time so they could manage to pay for classes. They applied for scholarships, gave up out of state school for an in-state/community college, and waited until they knew what they wanted to do before going to school. All to avoid taking out loans.
In short, they endured a brief period of sacrifice to avoid lifelong debt, while I’m staring at 20-30 years of payments because I didn’t know there were other options.
If I could have a conversation with my 20-year-old self, I’d tell her that no one, even those who have her best interests in mind, are more affected by my choices than me. I would tell her that making sacrifices early on would lead to a better foundation for the rest of her life.
Most importantly, I’d say that just because everyone else is doing something, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. If she wouldn’t jump off a bridge because everyone else is doing it, why take out an unspeakable amount of debt because 44.2 million other people are doing it?