Last week I discussed how I chose my college major and why it’s important for high school students (or people in general) to choose wisely. As the second post in my series about college, money, and student loans, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on why I didn’t mind paying back my student loans.
When I decided my junior year of high school that I wanted to be a nurse, I waited until my senior year to research colleges. I’m a huge procrastinator! I knew that I didn’t want to go out of state; I couldn’t imagine being that far away from my mom. Also, tuition was cheaper if I chose to stay in state vs going out of state.
Upon doing my research I came across Mercer University’s nursing program. It seemed to be everything that I was looking for, minus the tuition since it is a private school. I talked to my mom about it, and she reassured me that it was okay that it was a private school, especially since I was getting the HOPE scholarship. The HOPE scholarship paid full tuition for state schools, but only a certain amount for private schools. I reiterated that to my mom, but again she said that was okay.
So, of course, I went ahead and applied. However, I did something that my high school counselor and teachers told the students not to do – I only applied to Mercer. I didn’t apply to not one other college. I guess that was the 17-year-old in me that didn’t listen. However, that didn’t matter because I was accepted!!! I was ecstatic because I had figured out what I wanted to do with my life; I had applied to my dream college and I was accepted. Life couldn’t get any better than that. Nothing could possibly go wrong… Or could it?
Yes, it could, and it did. I didn’t get a full scholarship to Mercer although I had good grades and was graduating in the top 10% of my class. So what did that mean? They offered me all kinds of student loans. After discussing it with my mom, I accepted the scholarships they offered and declined all the student loans they offered. I mailed my paperwork back and waited to see what was going to happen.
A couple of days later I received a phone call from the Bursar’s Office. The lady asked that if I was going to decline all the student loans then how was I going to pay the remaining tuition. Of course, I didn’t know the answer to that question. So then she told me that I could pay out of pocket or I could set up a payment plan. Speechless… I was informed that I would receive paperwork in the mail about both.
Well, the paperwork came, and I was still speechless. I knew my parents couldn’t afford the out of pocket expense or the monthly payment expense. It was ultimately decided that I couldn’t attend Mercer. I was devastated, to say the least. Since I had only applied to Mercer, I didn’t even have any other colleges to fall back on. And of course, as luck would have it, it was too late to apply to any other colleges for the Fall semester. At best, I would have to wait until Spring semester.
I practically was ready to give up on college because even if I went somewhere in the Spring semester, where would I go? I was only interested in Mercer. However, my mom still had hope. She was determined that I was going to college somewhere. I’m glad she had hope because I didn’t. I was so upset that I told her
- If she could find me a college to attend, then I would go.
- If I wasn’t in college by Spring semester then I probably wouldn’t attend college. I just couldn’t see sitting out an entire year.
- I wasn’t going to help research colleges because I had already researched one and then she told me I couldn’t go! (Yes, I could be that 17-year-old).
I don’t know what my mom thought about what I said, but I remember her telling me OK (sorry mama!).
Needless to say, my mom found out about Georgia Perimeter College. It was a community college, and if accepted I would be able to start the Fall semester. Long story short, I was accepted and everything worked out great until it was time to choose a nursing program.
** side note: With Mercer’s nursing program you applied directly to the college of nursing and was either accepted or not. With all other nursing schools I came across you had to apply to that particular college first and be accepted, and then apply to the nursing school. Hence, another reason I liked Mercer.
The community college’s nursing program was the last resort for me. Why? Because I would only be able to get my associate’s degree and I wanted a bachelor’s degree.
So I applied to… Guess where? Mercer University (again). As my luck would have it, I wasn’t accepted because I had made a C in one of my Human Anatomy classes. I was advised to retake it and then maybe I would be accepted.
Well, I did just that, but with my great luck, Mercer was no longer offering the nursing program starting in Spring semester – you could only start in the Fall. So with another year to spare and more classes to take I considered going to Georgia State University. I had heard it was easier to get into a nursing program if you were already attending that particular college. So I applied to Georgia State and was accepted. I even registered for classes after taking the campus tour. Well, I got the bright idea to register for classes at Georgia Perimeter just to see what my schedule would look like. I didn’t like how my schedule was looking for Georgia State. I was going to be at school all day for 2 days out of the week. That was too much!
I looked at the class times for what I needed at Georgia Perimeter, and it was like my luck was turning around! My schedule was damn near perfect a.k.a. no days where I would be at school all day. So I decided to not attend Georgia State and stick with Georgia Perimeter.
As that semester was approaching an end, I figured I needed to apply to nursing schools yet again. I applied to several different state schools and either was put on the wait list or never heard anything back from them… Even until this day! Being the relentless Leo that I am, I decided to apply to Mercer one last time. I figured the third time is the charm, right? However, I had learned my lesson and decided that I would apply to another school just in case. I applied to Emory University also. Emory was my backup plan, but honestly, I just wanted to see if I would be accepted. I mean, after all, it was Emory.
I’ll never forget the day. It was Valentine’s Day and I was in my room. My mom came home and she had a gift for me. It was a jewelry box (I had been saying that I needed one). She said to me, “Look in the bag. There’s more.” I looked in the bag and my heart started racing. It was a letter from Mercer. I hurried up and opened it, and found a letter saying I was accepted to the nursing program! I was so happy. And then I laughed and told my mom, “What if that was a rejection letter? You would have ruined my gift by putting this letter in there with it!” Of course, she said she knew that I was going to be accepted so she wasn’t worried about it.
So here we are. I was accepted to Mercer. The school that I couldn’t afford before because I didn’t accept any of the student loans offered. So what did I do this time around? I accepted the student loans. Although my “credit was good” I still had to have a co-signer (thank you, dad!). I assured my dad that he wouldn’t have to worry about paying back the loans for me because I was going to do it myself. I knew it was going to take me some time, but I was going to do it.
After I graduated, passed NCLEX, and found a job, eventually, I did have to start paying back my loans. And honestly, I didn’t mind.
Why I Didn’t Mind Paying Back My Student Loans
- I had no choice. Lol. I definitely wasn’t trying to mess up my credit or my dad’s credit by not doing so.
- I was making enough money that I had no excuse not to pay them back.
- It almost became like a game to see how fast I could pay them off. My prize? The “paid in full” letter that I would receive for each loan that I did pay off.
- Ultimately, I signed the paper saying that I would pay them back. As a teenager, this is one of the important reasons to really choose wisely when it comes to your college major. Make sure you do plenty of research before signing up for student loan debt that you will have to pay back.
I (and we – my husband and I) worked very hard to pay off my student loans. It took me almost 4 years to do so, but it was definitely worth it.
If you’re struggling with the idea of having to pay back your student loans, or any other debt for that matter, maybe try to think of it in a different light… If I pay this off, it’ll be one less bill in the mail and more money in my pockets!
** side note: Oh. And in case you were wondering, I did get accepted to Emory as well. Although I chose not to attend, it was great telling people that I was accepted there. One of the best $50 I’ve spent in my life!
Omar’s thoughts: I was blessed to go to school completely debt free because my dad worked at the school. I didn’t realize how blessed I was until I saw the $84,000 bill that I didn’t have to pay back. Parents need to do a better job of advising kids on making this decision. If you can’t afford the Mercedes of schools there is no shame in going to the Honda of schools.
How do you (or did you) feel about paying back your student loans?
Coming up next week – How I Paid Off $36,500 In Student Loan Debt.