Student Loan Debt: 5 Things I’d tell my Pre-Graduate Self

According to a study conducted by The Project on Student Debt, 7 out of 10 college seniors who graduated last year left with more than a new degree–they also acquired an average of $29,400 in student loan debt. That means 70% of college graduates enter the workforce with a net worth that is in the negative because of their student loans. That. Is. Crazy. I was lucky enough to complete four years of college without acquiring any student loan debt thanks to an athletic scholarship and super amazing parents that were able to chip in to cover the rest. Then came graduate school a few states away from my home and with that–unfortunately–I hopped on the student loan debt bandwagon and found myself with a Master’s Degree and $60,000 student loan debt!

Obviously I can’t (and wouldn’t) want to go back and change everything. I LOVED moving to a different part of the country and exploring an environment outside of the one I had lived in for the past 22 years. I LOVED the people I met, the graduate program I went through, and the experience I had. After living it, I can’t say that I would hop in a time machine and make a drastically different grad school decision if the option was there–even to get $60,000 of student loan debt off my chest (gol’ darn emotions and memories). However, looking back with my wise and student loan debt ridden eyes, I can say that there are definitely a few things I wish I would have done a little bit differently…

1. “Budget”: I have always been pretty good about money. I’ve never been a frivolous spender or someone who had no concept of spending less than what you earn, but I didn’t completely understand what a “budget” was. I thought I was on a budget because I KEPT TRACK of what I was spending AFTER I had already spent it. For example, one month (during football season) I spend over $400 on going out to eat, bars, and beer and didn’t know it until AFTER I had already spent it. My thought process was, “Well next month I’ll spend less”. I didn’t always stick to the plan to “spend less” because I was missing the key concept of a “budget”…I didn’t dictate HOW MUCH I was actually going to spend. Keeping track of what I was spending was a starting point, but it didn’t stop my money from disappearing without me knowing where it went.

Tailgating pics

Tailgating could have been my second major ;-)

2. Get a Job. I go back and forth about this one all the time. I was in a program that was more than a full-time job commitment between classes and clinicals, not to mention homework and studying. I had actually applied to 17 jobs during my first semester (and got calls back from a few), but I was living in a college town and just didn’t have the connections I needed to work in the bar and restaurant industry. I felt like bars and restaurants were the way to go since you take home cash that night and can easily make more than minimum wage. Scheduling was a problem because I wasn’t finished with work or clinic until 5pm or later most nights and restaurants wanted me there earlier to begin the dinner service. All excuses aside, between my schedule and my mindset at the time, I should have gotten some sort of job to create some sort of income.

3. Find another way. This is controversial. Dave Ramsey says, “Don’t loan money to family. Give it as a gift or don’t give it at all”. I definitely know that philosophy is completely correct, but I wish I would have tried asking grandparents and parents for some sort of “loan”, even if it was loaning me the money to buy my books each semester or helping me pay my rent each month. I don’t know if this actually would have happened, but if you have family members that have extra money and want to “invest” in your education, ask if they want to loan you some money (you can both sign a written agreement if it makes you feel better) while you’re in school and start paying it back after you graduate at a low interest rate. That way, they’re investing their money wisely (because we know you’re responsible and would pay them back quickly ;-)) AND you don’t have to eat 7% interest from DAY ONE! It’s worth a try!

Beach Pics

I couldn’t believe I lived so close to “the sea”!

4. State Schools. This one is SO hard for me to put on here, because I didn’t do it, and wouldn’t do it if I had to do it all over again. I loved the experience that I had, but if you’re someone who’s looking to go back home or stay near home (or in the same state), a state school is the way to go. Most of the time they are great schools and cost way less per month than most others (aka a great value).

5. Work/Study & Internships. This is an easy way to “make money” or get cheaper tuition without a scheduling conflict. Most work/study programs are within your program or will work with your program to make sure your hours don’t conflict with academics. Internships are usually within your program and can range from simple to very involved. Not only are these great ways to make extra money, but it’s a great way to make connection and meet awesome people!

Graduation School Pic

Celebrating the end of an amazing (and extremely difficult) two years!

Have you learned any lessons about finance recently?! Follow the “Reply” link at the top of this post to share your thoughts with me and Brittany! If you could reach out to your pre-graduate self to give advice about student loan debt, what would you say?

Student Loan Debt: 5 Things I’d tell my Pre-Graduate Self can also be found on the Financially Savvy Saturday Link up happening over at BrokeGirlrich. Be sure to click on the button below to head on over and check out all the other savvy posts!

brokeGIRLrich

Follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!

Follow on Bloglovin

Sam

10 thoughts on “Student Loan Debt: 5 Things I’d tell my Pre-Graduate Self

    1. Brittany Post author

      Congratulations! And a new plan sounds perfect…always changing and improving creates success. Every grad program is different and some require more hours or “hands on” time than others so it depends on the program, but if you could do it, it will definitely help you out in the end! Thanks for reading! -Sam

      Reply
    1. Brittany Post author

      For sure! I went to state schools for undergrad and grad and felt like I got great educations at both. Unfortunately, the state school I got my graduate degree from was not a state that I was a resident in which tripled the tuition rate :-( My vote is for state schools! Thanks for reading! -Sam

      Reply
  1. Ryan @ Savers4Life

    Very good tips! We finally paid off our student loans, but it would have been nice to limit them. We went the state school route and ended up just fine.

    The most important thing is making sure the field you are getting a degree in pays enough to help you pay off that loan.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve heard callers call in on Dave Ramsey and say they owe over $200k on a degree and they make $30k per year. Nuts!

    Great article!
    Ryan @ Savers4Life recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays #59My Profile

    Reply
    1. Brittany Post author

      Thanks Ryan!!! The state school is definitely the way to go. Congratulations on paying off your loans…must feel good! You’re right about getting a meaningful degree that is worth it’s price. No sense in spending $100,000 to come out of school making $30,000.

      Reply
  2. Nichole @Budget Loving Military Wife

    Oh, I so wish I could tell my 18 y.o. self all of this advice plus some! Like study a little harder because you are going to lose that $2500 scholarship over a 0.1 difference in your GPA… work a little more during the school year… live a little more frugally during my graduate program… maybe I would have had $20,000 in student loans instead of $50,000. Live and learn I suppose!

    Great post! I hope your message reaches college students! Best wishes!
    Nichole @Budget Loving Military Wife recently posted…Favorite Reads & Versatile Blogger AwardMy Profile

    Reply
  3. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

    I wish my grad school self knew more about blogging. I went to grad school overseas, so my work visa made life kind of ridiculous. I wound up working as a campus tour guide, but I could only work a max of 20 hours a week, so I really wasn’t making much at all. If I’d known more about blogging, I think I would’ve been able to maximize turning it into a real stream of income, especially since it wouldn’t’ve mattered I happened to be blogging from England.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays #59My Profile

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge