Getting a college education is not a given in the United States. However, with hard work, perseverance and yes, some financial aid received through a student loan, I was one of the lucky ones to earn a college education.
My Student Loan Story
Growing up in a large family of 6 kids and 2 parents, I didn’t believe I would be able to go to college. After working in the real world for 8 years after high school, I took a huge leap of faith and attended college part time at a local community college. I was terrified, yet so determined.
I realized I would have to either pay as I went or take out a student loan. I continued to work full-time, at least at first. Although I eventually received partial scholarships from the private university I attended, I did have to take out a student loan through the state.
Upon graduation, I asked for and received a loan deferment so I could continue and work for a master’s degree without having to pay off the student loan while in school. I did get a scholarship for the two year masters’ program, which was a huge relief, given I would already be owing for the first student loan I’d received as an undergraduate student.
Plus, I received a research assistantship, which meant I got paid a small monthly stipend to help a couple of professors with research projects. Once I completed my masters’ degree, it was time to pay back the student loan. The total amount of the student loan was about $5,000. Believe it or not, that was a huge amount to me.
Even so, the monthly payment was only $50 per month. As I had secured a full-time job in my profession about 3 months before graduating from the masters program, I was able to save up a little money to begin applying more than $50 per month when it was time to start paying back the student loan.
I basically paid about $100 per month the first few months and more when I could afford it (instead of just $50).I paid off the student loan in about 1½ years. I often reflect back on how grateful I am that I was able to obtain money to get my education. To this day, I believe that getting a college education is one of my biggest accomplishments in life.
Tips on Paying Off Student Loans
Make paying off your student loan your first priority.
- Keep working your job as long as you can while going to school to keep some money coming in. Go part-time if you have to just to begin saving for the day you have to start paying off your student loan,
- Recognize that, in the future you’ll be making more money than you ever thought you would make and will be able to buy a few things you want.
- When it’s time to start paying off the student loan, make double payments.
- Vow to be responsible about managing your finances. You learned how to live on little money while in college. And that is a good thing. Keep focused on putting any extra funds toward your student loan.
- Refrain from spending money frivolously. Put any extra money (like a tax return) toward the student loan principal. You will be tempted to “celebrate” by making an extravagant purchase or two. Doing so will only delay your efforts to pay off your student loan.
Benefits of a College Education
The benefits I’ve received from my college education are many. Here are a few:
- Having the experience of learning about so many different fascinating subjects,
- Gained research experience I wouldn’t have ever gotten involved with otherwise,
- Meeting and making friends with several people, whom I wouldn’t have met,
- Allowed me to make at least double the salary of what I would have made without an education,
- Built my self-confidence,
- Increased my level of taking personal responsibility for my own life and how it turns out,
- Helped me to see my own value as a human being,
- Aided me to develop a sense of pride in myself,
- Encouraged me to dream big and imagine I could do whatever I put my mind to, and
- Earned me the respect of others in my career field.
The gratitude I feel toward the state and the university I attended for providing me with education funds is still very real to me. After all, I would not have had the experiences I have were it not for my college education.
The fact is that someone who didn’t know me at all believed in me. They had faith I could follow through, earn an education and be successful. And they were willing to loan me the money to do it.