To Loan or Not To Loan

by Sakeenah
(Texas, United States)

In 2007 when I graduated high school I knew I wanted to make something of my life. I wanted to be the first person in my family to graduate from a four-year university and I also knew I wanted to major in nutrition. I had a lot figured out for someone at eighteen. But did you also know that I never expected to graduate in four, five, or even six years? Yes, that's me overachieving as usual. But seriously, I knew exactly what I was up against, poverty. I grew up in a small country town out in the middle of nowhere. My parents are both blue collar workers who at times held multiple jobs just to be able to provide for my brothers and I. To them a college fund is something that rich people do for their children, but us good ol' country folk, we get put to work. If it's one thing I know how to do well, it's work. That's exactly how I originally planned to put myself through school.

Hardwork and dedication pays off kids. So should you wait tables or just take out that good ol' parent plus loan? Well let me help you weigh some options. The one thing twenty-five year old me has learned that eighteen year old me could have served to listen to it's these three concepts I am going to discuss; Work smarter not harder, persistence pays off, and loans do serve a good purpose.

For six years I've busted my tail at work. I've worked retail, been a barista, and made decent money as a cocktail waitress all while supporting myself part-time through school. I can say that half of that time I was miserable and the other half of the time I was enjoying being a young, single, independent young woman. I took pride in being able to pay all my own bills, keep a roof over my head, have a decent social life, and chug away at the ol' degree two or three classes at a time.

Heck, even typing that out makes me feel a whole lot better about my situation right now. I'm twenty five, living in student apartments, still chuggin' away at the degree but this time doing fourteen hours down the throat, and working part-time. Big shift in my philosophy. I got through sophomore year by taking courses at community college, which are far more cheaper than universities. I paid out of pocket for all those classes. That I am proud of. But I also think how far I could have come if I had just applied to the thousands of scholarships available for students. I applied to maybe five scholarships in high school and I won just one. At the time I thought it was too much work, but now having worked in the job force waiting tables and hustling my butt off to make a living, I see that typing up essays is far more easier and much more beneficial in the long run. Not only do
you increase your odds at funding your education loan free, but you also get great practice for all the papers you'll have to write in college.

My biggest mistake when it came to applying to scholarships was giving up when I didn't receive the amount that I would have liked. In seven years, I have learned the value of a dollar. Yes, that five hundred dollar scholarship might seem small compared to some of the other jackpots, but that's enough for books for most semesters at school. It could also pay for supplies, gas, and dues for organizations. Small wins really do add up! So get on the internet and start caring about your future now. Don't wait for the future to come for you decide to really apply yourself. Make smart decisions now and you will make even smarter decisions in the future. I say all this to keep you from falling straight to the last resort, student loans.

Student loans are not the devil, they are actually for a good cause, to help you achieve your educational and career dreams. Where the problem comes in with student loans is that at the age that most people are taking out student loans, most have not even learned how to support themselves and therefore could not understand the value of a dollar. I have chosen to take out student loans for the remainder of my time at college because I don't want to graduate at twenty-eight. It's worth it to save me more time. Now I'm taking my own advice and applying for scholarships because it is never too late. Loans can teach you responsibility which is a major part of becoming an adult, but if you aren't in adult mindset when you are in college then it won't actually benefit as much as it can damage you.

The biggest complaint I hear from professionals that have graduated from college some ten years prior is the fact that they are still in debt from college. How is it that during the time of your life where you should be enriching yourself, you are actually depreciating your value? And the bigger question, was there a way to avoid it? The answer is always yes.

As the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way and it's up to you to find it. My way was taking the scenic route, working to pay for school and taking out a smaller sum in the end, while still applying for scholarships of course. So if you know that you will land a job upon graduating that will lead you to that six figures that can help you pay off your student loan debt in a short amount of time, by all means go for it. But, if you even have to think twice well my friend I suggest you consider all other options before hopping on that 'not so free' money train. It's not easy, but it darn sure is worth it. I've always loved a challenge anyways, it feels that much better when you win.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Sakeenah for sharing your story To Loan or Not To Loan. Sometimes it is a hard decision and it sounds like you will be on your way to graduation soon. Best of luck to you.

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Tips About Student Loans

I think the best way that people can pay for their student loans would be to apply to as many scholarships and grants as you can. There is so much money out there and it’s only up to you to take the time to apply for them.

My mother told me that whenever you think you should apply for a loan to college don’t, because she is still paying hers and loans pile up very heavily. A few tips that I learned online said that first you have to face your debt.

If your loans have been building, a crucial first step is to know what you're working with. Students can locate all their federal loans and find debt totals, including accumulated interest. After that you can contact your loan servicer. Once you know how much you owe, find out exactly who you'll be sending checks to—your student loan servicer. Your loan servicer is your first point of contact for any questions and address updates, so don't hesitate to reach out, recommends Erin Wolfe, associate director of financial aid at Susquehanna University.

Then you have to pick a repayment plan. The standard repayment plan for student loans is 10 years, but that doesn't necessarily make it the right option for every student. For help finding the right plan, online tools such as allow students to experiment with payment options. Stick to a budget; once you determine a monthly obligation, keep track of other spending to ensure you can pay all your bills.

As you budget, you may find yourself forgoing activities or events to pay off your debt. Prioritizing may also mean minimizing other forms of debt or, if possible, chipping away at student loans before tackling other types of debt. Focus on the future: If you find you're scrimping or sacrificing to make your monthly student loan payments, it may help to remind yourself what you're paying for.

Read more Tips About Student Loans from other students and parents who have been through the student loan process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you for sharing your tips about student loans. The simple answer is whenever possible, don't take the loan. Best of luck to you.

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