Now that I have been out of college for a couple of years and am in the process of paying off $28,000 of student loans, I frequently find myself wondering if going to a 4-year university was worth the cost.
The amount of my student loans may or may not seem like a ton of debt, but to me it is completely unsettling. So much so that I started my own personal finance blog to chronicle my journey of becoming debt-free.
Many recent college graduates experience the same situation. Today, the average 2016 college graduate had over $37,000 of student loan debt. Most of them are working relatively low-paying, entry-level jobs, making it even more difficult to repay such a large sum of money.
Every day I regret my debt. I would never regret the college experience though.
I escaped my bubble
I grew up in the country in very rural Iowa and went to a tiny high school. I was so shy around new people because I had the same friends since we were in diapers. At college, I learned to interact with new people and make new friends and acquaintances.
I experienced diversity at college. Never before had I seen so many different people – people of all races, ethnicities, sexualities, genders, religions, and beliefs. Truly, I was fascinated.
Yes, I could have gone to the community college close to home for a year or two. But I would have gone there with 90% of my high school classmates and would not have experienced anything new.
College granted me more opportunities than I could ever imagine
Had I not paid to go to a 4-year university, I know I would not have had the opportunities to do what I have accomplished during school and post-graduation.
Going to a large school, I had ample chances to network with people from all backgrounds. Because of this, I was able to land 3 dream internships, live in Florida for 8 months during school, study in Italy, visit Ireland, work at Walt Disney World, or move to South Carolina after graduation.
If it weren’t for my student loans, I couldn’t have gone to a university and I never would have gotten out of small-town Iowa. I would be back there, doing a job I didn’t love. I wouldn’t have met my fiancé, started a blog, or met friends from all over the world.
It taught me the value of money and hard work.
We all know that person who has been handed everything in life.
Many times, I see students coast through college, not caring whatsoever about money because their parents pay for everything. Then when it’s time to live on their own in the real world, these people often fall flat. Why?
Likely, they have never had a hard lesson in money. Money is like anything – you learn quickly if you fail.
When I graduated, I had no idea how much student loan debt I would have. I was never a huge spender, but it was a huge wakeup call to learn that in the 6 months after graduation, I would have to find a job that earned enough to pay off $28,000 in debt.
While it would be nice to not have student loan debt, I wouldn’t be who I am without it. Though it was scary at times, it taught me the value of money.
Because I am indebted, I work all that much harder to get out of debt. Instead of just relying on income from my full-time job, I started blogging and freelance writing to pay off even more debt. Essentially, between my day job, blogging, and freelance writing, I work two full-time jobs. And I love it.
Hard work is a trait most people don’t have. No matter where I go or what I do, I can be sure when I say that I will be the hardest worker there. And I can attribute this partly to having student loans.
$28,000 of student loans is a scary amount. But every person I met, opportunity I had, and lesson learned from going to a 4-year university far exceeds the cost. Ultimately, everyone has their own lessons and story, and this is mine.