Living with Student Debt Pre-Graduation
Student loan debt has been a newsworthy topic recently. There are definitely pros and cons to borrowing money to pay for college. Here’s my experience with how taking out loans can provide both a path to greater learning as well as greater student debt.
As part of the first generation in my family to go to college, I knew it would be no easy feat — let alone a small bill. I sometimes think back to who I was when I was choosing a college. I was just an 18-year-old kid eager to get out of Chicago, make new friends, and take the world by storm. I did not know what new roads college would lead me down, but I did know that I wanted a fresh change of scenery. I got just that by taking out loans and heading up to Wisconsin.
After getting sent home in the middle of my second semester due to the pandemic, I realized my student debt was turning out to be more of a mountain than a hill. I was very fortunate to have received grants and scholarships that put going out-of-state on my radar. But still, the loans I did have were enough to create a panic that was starting to set in. I had trouble sleeping and could think of nothing else for weeks.
How will I pay all this money back? Will my quality of life be worse than my peers who did not need loans? Did I make the right choices? — These are questions I asked and still ask myself.
At 19 years old with no clue what I wanted to do to earn money after graduating, I did not know how I would deal with this money mess I had created. Not knowing how I would solve this problem scared me and watching many of my peers not have this same fear frustrated me.
But over time, I have found that the best way to cope is by changing my perspective. I am learning to look at student debt as much more than a bill on the kitchen table. Instead, it is a representation of my stepping into adulthood and taking control of my education, my career, and my life. Some days the stress still gets me down, but most days I feel as though it is fueling me to succeed even more.
I do not intend for this piece to serve as any kind of financial advice. I certainly did not make my college choice based on what was most financially sound. However, I did make my college choice based on what I wanted. I chose the option that was right for my future and that felt right becoming my second home.
I cannot go back in time and undo what I have done, but I like to think that if I did go back, knowing what I know now, I would not have chosen differently. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. If I had not chosen to take out loans and go to the school I did, I would not be the person I am today. And I would not be as responsible or as grateful for every minute of my college experience.
I don’t want financial worries of the future tainting my experiences in the present. When I start to feel the pressure like I did freshman year, I take a deep breath and look at pictures from all my happy memories at school these last few years. I could not imagine them being taken anywhere else, and that keeps me grateful and reminds me that everything is going to work out.
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