After getting her friends to share their stories, Josie Corichi opens up about her own adventures in student loan borrowing.
Coming from a low-income household, you’d think that I would have had a better understanding of money growing up. However, it wasn’t until I graduated from college that I realized just how little I knew about my student loans.
When I first started taking out debt, I wasn’t concerned in the slightest. My thought was “these are GOVERNMENT loans… the government wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t pay back… Right?”
Boy, was I wrong.
Truth was, I didn’t really know what “interest accrual” meant. I couldn’t tell you if 10% was good or bad—it was just too abstract… and numbers that were over $1,000 just made me dizzy.
So every interest statement I received went into a box that I kept under my bed, and I never opened any of them. I figured whatever the amount was, I couldn’t afford to pay it—so why get all stressed out?
The stress of those statements never stopped me from taking out more debt than I needed, though. The first time I took out the maximum on my student loans, I quickly learned that I’d get a sweet refund check in the spring. Hello, eBay! Luckily, my mother convinced me to not take out many unsubsidized loans. I didn’t know what that meant, but I trusted her.
I BIDED MY TIME
When I graduated from school, I had enough sense to at least contact my servicer about my low-to-no income. I have no idea if they put me on a deferment or forbearance. I didn’t know what interest accrual meant, so I didn’t really pay attention to how my loans were growing. As long as I didn’t have to pay right now, what’s the difference?
HOW I FIXED IT
For starters, I went back to school. That allowed me to postpone my payments with an in-school deferment, while also building up my résumé. I applied to a lot of schools, and got into 99% of them—and this time I really took a look at the numbers.
I just couldn’t stomach paying over $30,000 a year for a prestigious school. Things were tough enough without that hanging over my head. So I chose to go to an inexpensive state university. While it may not seem as glamorous as having the name “Brown” or “Harvard,” it did allow me to become completely debt free by age 27—and I still learned a lot!
INTO THE FUTURE…
Now that I’m working in the student loan industry, I get to see first-hand just how many people are struggling with student loan debt. I’m forever grateful that my situation didn’t get as bad as it could have.
It was really humbling to find out just how little I knew, and how many mistakes I had made. The biggest thing I learned is that while college can provide you with great advantages in life, you have to be willing to be realistic with yourself about what you can afford.
It’s tough to know that the big names were out of my price range, but at the same time, it’s wonderful to know that I don’t have to lose a chunk of my paycheck every month.
Maybe, someday, my kids will go to Brown.