Debunked: Two Myths About Student Loan Debt
Hesitant about student loan debt? You're not alone! Here are a few words of advice from a recent King's grad.
There are a lot of opinions out there about student loans. Some people believe you’d be better off selling your soul than going into debt, while others think of loans as free money Grandma sneaks to you at Christmas. Whichever camp you are in, the intense debate around the ‘L’ word has created several myths which play into our decision-making when looking at colleges. As a college grad who took out loans, but also loves free money from Grandma, I want to help dispel two of these myths so you can make your best decision. So here goes –
Myth #1: “Anything is better than having to take out loans”
During my time at college, I saw many students willing to go to extreme measures just to avoid taking out a penny in student loans. While this is commendable in one way, it isn’t advisable. College is more than a financial experience and when you make it all about avoiding debt, you end up paying for it in other ways. My friends who worked five jobs weren’t able to participate in their classes, their community, or extracurriculars in the same way. Even their sleep schedules and health were affected.
To anyone starting their first year of college, I would recommend planning on taking out some loans your first year, even if you could make it work in some other time-consuming way. There are enough challenges coming your way in the first year of college. Transitioning to a new community, new classes, and maybe even a new city is difficult without also managing a part-time job. Even if it’s just one semester, do what you can (including taking out loans) to give yourself the time and space to transition into your new routines and community.
Myth #2: “If I take out loans they will haunt me for the rest of my life”
This is the most important myth to dispel. The driver behind most people’s fear of loans is the misconception that loans will haunt you like the Ghost of Christmas Past. While it’s true that poorly managed loans and finances can have a negative impact on your life, it’s also very avoidable. The investment of a college education can pay off quickly regardless of your major and especially in New York City. The deciding factor in your loan’s life is your attitude.
My wife and I collectively took out about $60,000 in student loans across our college education (I had less than her, but who’s counting). We both got standard jobs in the City shortly after graduating and began putting every spare cent we had towards loans. We had promised each other that we would get a puppy as a reward after paying off our loans, so we were 200% motivated. It’s worth noting that even with our aggressive approach we budgeted money to spend on fun things like a trip to Iceland, so don’t assume paying off loans means no spending cash. I’m thrilled to say that after just 1.5 years after graduating, we did it! We paid off our student loans. Sure, it took a plan, dedication, hard work, and the right reward (the puppy helped tremendously), but it was possible.
Stories like ours are actually the norm of college grads. As long as you approach your loans with the right attitude, it’s possible to pay them off in a timely fashion. I know you still might have some hesitancy towards loans—and you should. You should definitely be careful on how much you take out in loans and know what you’re getting into. Look for outside scholarships and take advantage of institutional aid (write those essays!). Also make sure to connect with your financial aid office to be loan-savvy. I just hope you see that loans are a viable way to pay for your college career. But also, so is that money from Grandma, so start saving it…
// Photo by Jp Valery //