Loan Known

by Sarah Anderton
(Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

Me and my fellow (soon to be) Temple Alumni

Me and my fellow (soon to be) Temple Alumni

I am a recent college graduate. This is my story about student loans and how you have them, know they are there, but somehow block them out of your memory… -until that day, 6 months after graduation, when the first (of many) bill comes in.

I was raised in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. I studied advertising and entrepreneurship at Temple University in Philadelphia. I felt –and still feel, like my experience at Temple shaped me into a worldly person, both from my education, and from my surroundings, living in a new and different place away from home. I would not give up my experience at Temple for anything… Not even the near 30,000 dollars I now owe in student loans.

During college, I worked as a secretary, a hostess, and a caterer. In the end, I was making decent money. I had some really good times. I went out, bought clothes, treated my friends, took mini vacations, it was a good, no great life. Needless to say, I didn’t save any money.

And then that day came in November of 2013, when I got my first student loan bill of $292.27. I had moved to Pittsburgh, and I was still on the job search. So instead of continuing to look for a job with my degree, I took a promo job I found on Craigslist. I set up stands in grocery stores and gave out free samples of jerky. It was not what I thought I would be doing after college, but it was a job.

If I could go back and do anything differently, it would be starting a savings account while in college (or even earlier!) to prepare for the day when student loans start coming in, or better yet, pay my loans while in school rather than acting like they didn’t exist.

Side note: I did, eventually, get a job with my degree. I got it in May 2014, exactly a year after graduation. Now, I make enough to cover my bills doing what I love to do. In the end, it all worked out for me. But there was a rough part, so I suggest you plan for it. Save money while your in school, or start paying your loans before the bills start coming in. Trust me, you will thank yourself whether you get a job right after school, or a year later, either way, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.

Thanks Sarah for sharing your student loan experience. Best of luck to you.

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College Loans

by Kim Klein
(Mays Landing, NJ USA)

As both a parent and a high school counselor, I have quite a bit to share. If I can help even one potential college student, I feel I have done my small part to help future generations.

First, do not take out large loans that you will carry on your back like a sack of bricks for the next 20 years. One of my students chose a private Philadelphia college for computer engineering. He worked hard, did everything a successful young person does, and did find a lucrative career after graduation. However, his starting salary does not begin to cover the couple of hundred thousand dollars in loans he owes. Now, he finds he cannot qualify to buy a house because of all he owes in college loans. He and his new wife are throwing money away on rent when they could have been investing in a home and their future.
His mother told me, "Why didn't he just go to a less expensive state college? He would have received the same degree, and with his talent, he probably would have the same employer, but now he owes all this money!"
This student, if he could re-write the past, would have chosen a different college.

Second, I would keep the amount of money you borrow to a minimum. Your first child may already be a high school senior, but it is not too late to start a 529 program for your younger children. Start saving early, and remember, any amount counts. Some people say, "The amount college costs is so exorbitant, why even bother?"

I say, every little bit counts. This is also why parents should encourage their children to do community service, even when they are still in elementary school. Scholarships exist for student who are not in high school yet. Also, many high school students could qualify for impressive scholarships if they would start early (8th or 9th grade) and implement a community service project. I wish my own child had done more volunteer work, for a multitude of reasons. Of course, we could use the money from the scholarships available for community service champions. Even more important, this part of life would have taught her so much about what it feels like to take a part of your day to help others. Ironically, it makes the giver feel so good about him/herself that it is worth it, even if you never win a dime in scholarships as a result of your efforts.

Thank you, and I hope I have helped someone out there in some small way.

Thanks Kim for sharing. It is always nice to hear from high school counselors as they have so much experience to offer.

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The Do's and Dont's for College Loans

by Dewon L. Evans
(Bellwood, Illinois)

From the time we are conceived until the time we are anticipating that great day!! High School graduation day, the thought of going off to college has been a lifelong fantasy for many of us. In my family going to college is not an option, it is a decision.

My mother has instilled in my life the importance of a good education. My mother who is a college graduate has not always had an easy life. My mother grew up and was raised by a single mother in the 1960's. in a crowded apartment building, sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with 6 people. Her mother (my grandmother) was not able to send her to college without the assistance of college loans and grants. My mother has continued her education and has continued to use college loans as a means of paying for her education. She is now facing a life long situation of "debt". A decision she now wishes she had more knowledge of before continuing to borrow money and not seek out more scholarships which could of helped to fund her education.

The lessons that mom has learned has now educated me more on the process of taking out college loans to finance a college education. College loans can be a very effective way to help pay for the many expenses associated with college, but you must be wise. There are steps to utilize when deciding if a college loan is right for you.

First, create a plan for the family when making college choices, then look at all funding sources (after completing your FAFSA). It is imperative that you begin this process as soon as possible, an ideal time would be in your junior year of high school so that you will have your sources secured by senior year. Lastly be "money smart", if you need to utilize college loans, then borrow only what you need and begin paying the interest while you are still in school. This will help alleviate incurred interests and costs after you graduate.

In conclusion, an informed student is a wise student. It is important to read and research the entire college process and a big part of your search is securing your funding sources. College loans can be a crucial part of helping to fund your post secondary education but you must be an informed consumer. Read Read and Read.

Thanks Devon for sharing your family's experience with student loans. There are many better options to pay for college, and FAFSA is the place to start. Best of luck to you.

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Never Say Never to Loans

by Melesio Hernandez Jr
(Yuma, Arizona, United States)

To avoid pulling out loans for my first year, I chose to attend Arizona Western College, a community college in Yuma, Arizona. Tuition each semester is less than half of what I pay now at the University of Arizona allowing me to postpone signing for loans. Although after a year, I chose to challenge myself both physically and mentally and made the decision to transfer to the University of Arizona. With that said I knew the only way that would be possible would have to be me pulling loans for each semester. Before heading into some tips, we know that as time has passed, the word debt has become less frightening by the public. In the past, loans let alone debt was frowned upon and people where shamed for the debt they owed. Although right now, debt still isn’t loved, but it’s definitely more accepted now then it ever has been. The reality of the fact is that loans can be tricky because each has its own rules. Therefore being smart about how to go about signing for them is the key that can save you plenty of money in the long run. The reality is that depending on your financial standing, you can say no to loans, but you don’t have to.

Qualifying for a variety of loans can be overwhelming, but try to keep in mind that each can be broken down into categories. For example, each has a specific interest rate and some may be subsidized while others are not. Some may allow you to sign for as much as 12,000 and others only 6,000. Another thing to keep in mind is when signing for loans, you only sign once a year for two semesters. This means that you must try and plan for what you need in a years span. Next there are a few important ideas to keep in mind as you start to apply for loans.

A strategy I share to you when signing for loans is to make sure you only get what you need. This includes things like school tuition, books, rent or even money for groceries if need be. This also means that loans shouldn’t be used for items you can live without. For example that new watch or gaming system can wait for when you have a job either during school or after. This minimizes the amount of money in principal that you’ll have to pay to kill the loan. With that set of mind, the next key point is being able to pick out the pros and cons between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. These two loans are mostly offered in today’s time and knowing there differences will allow you to overcome any trick they have to offer.

A pro of subsidized loans is that interest payments are deferred while your going to school. Another positive note is that even after you graduate you have a grace period before you need to begin making payments. This allows you to relax and focus on school leaving paying any debt back till after you graduate college. These type of loans are more attractive and if need be should be chosen. Although a con in the case of unsubsidized loans is that interest payments are not deferred and you make the interest payments or not. If no payments are made, the downside is that the interest charged for each month gets added to a new remaining balance and begins to accumulate over time. This then creates a larger payback in the end. Your best bet is to avoid such loans, but if you have to sign for them, at least try to make the interest payments that way the balance doesn’t reach an all time high at the end of your schooling. This will involve a constant interest payment and leave your loan balance down to what you signed for.

Thanks Melesio for sharing Never Say Never to Loans. You made some good points. Attending a community college for the first two years is a good option, and limited subsidized loans if you qualify and need them to help through the next two years. Best of luck.

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