“EVERY INTEREST STATEMENT WENT INTO A BOX UNDER MY BED”

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Josie put all her bills into the “special” filing cabinet under her bed.

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.

(Photo: Flickr/uzvards)

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  1. Michelle Borst Polino June 22, 2013 / 12:53 pm

    Student loans are tough to navigate but if you learn and pay attention, it will make the trip a lot smoother

  2. Lynda Perry June 22, 2013 / 1:06 pm

    good articles

  3. Jennifer Melgaard June 22, 2013 / 1:23 pm

    very nice

  4. Yoma Orho June 22, 2013 / 1:24 pm

    Very good articles.

  5. Tricia Williams June 22, 2013 / 1:32 pm

    Good advice I’m going to have my college son read!

  6. Catherine June 22, 2013 / 2:08 pm

    Like the author I grew up in a low income family. Fortunately for me, my dad hated being in debt and passed that on to us. So, while I went to college (a junior college and a local state college where I didn’t have dorm fees) I never had any student loan debts. I also worked part of the time I was in college. Not the best solution, but whatever works.

  7. Martha June 22, 2013 / 2:22 pm

    I want to avoid student loans as much as possible. Getting mail from a particular company to convince me to get student loans is so annoying

  8. Joe Westbrook June 22, 2013 / 2:24 pm

    Scary what we do to ourselves, encouraging what a little knowledge will allow us to prevent and/or overcome.

  9. Ashley Fraser June 22, 2013 / 2:25 pm

    love the articles! keep them coming

  10. Sheryl Holden June 22, 2013 / 2:52 pm

    That is a perfectly normal reaction while being a student is to wait until after school to really tackle the loan debt.

  11. Rhonda Furia June 22, 2013 / 3:03 pm

    thank you

  12. Heather Jacobs June 22, 2013 / 3:08 pm

    Nice articles.

  13. schatzi June 22, 2013 / 3:11 pm

    excellent information, something I didn’t have when I started school……..

  14. DST June 22, 2013 / 3:22 pm

    Very informative!

  15. Sue R June 22, 2013 / 3:23 pm

    good tips

  16. Unkunk June 22, 2013 / 3:32 pm

    My Dad warned me about college loans, but did I listen? NO! Boy, I sure wish I would have….

  17. Atzi June 22, 2013 / 3:37 pm

    good information!

  18. Atzi June 22, 2013 / 3:37 pm

    gives me something to think about, as I lay awake at night……….

  19. Sissy June 22, 2013 / 3:43 pm

    My sisters and I (all of whom are participating and all of whom have significant school related debt) are using this as an educational opportunity so we don’t continue to have debt issues as we enter our chosen careers.

  20. Darcy June 22, 2013 / 3:50 pm

    As my sister, Sissy (above) said, it’s time to start making smart financial decisions and this is a big step in the right direction……

  21. CARL June 22, 2013 / 3:55 pm

    INTERESTING

  22. Jenny Ebelke June 22, 2013 / 4:20 pm

    good information

  23. Cheri Feaster June 22, 2013 / 4:47 pm

    The only thing I can say is I need at my age to be taken care of! Sallie Mae is off there Rocker the sooner I get it paid off their computer fails again! Geeish why ids that anyone else in my situation! I just need them to start being my wake-up call everyday! Good luck everyone!

  24. chong lor June 22, 2013 / 4:56 pm

    I agree! Hiigh school students tend to not know!

  25. Brandon June 22, 2013 / 5:17 pm

    Cool beans =)

  26. Robert Gurholt June 22, 2013 / 5:23 pm

    interesting.

  27. Ronni Fox June 22, 2013 / 5:50 pm

    A word, or several, to the wise.

  28. Laura Bagwell June 22, 2013 / 6:48 pm

    Wow I hadn’t thought of that before

  29. Diane Revere June 22, 2013 / 7:02 pm

    well

  30. cherylyn pacheco June 22, 2013 / 7:04 pm

    I know exactly what she means I have no idea about a lot of things to do with money.

  31. Shonda Woessner June 22, 2013 / 7:05 pm

    Great info!

  32. Sharon June 22, 2013 / 7:12 pm

    Your experience has been very helpful advice for me! I’m trying not to get into student loan debt! Thank You!

  33. christina robinson June 22, 2013 / 7:16 pm

    Student loans suck so many of us college students in. I have a gut wrenching feeling in my gut every time I think about how much student loan debt I’ve accumulated in the last 3 years with 1 more to go :(

  34. adraine goins June 22, 2013 / 7:23 pm

    I also liked this article. Right now I’m paying back a student loan every month. And just like you, I put everything in the back of my mind. This loan that I’m paying is from back in the ’80′s. And the interest went up. So to have a good credit rating, I’m paying!!

    Thank You

  35. Regan Butler June 22, 2013 / 7:25 pm

    Great article.

  36. niakeela June 22, 2013 / 8:05 pm

    good story

  37. Paul Hedstrom June 22, 2013 / 8:35 pm

    Great Article!

  38. colleen June 22, 2013 / 8:49 pm

    great story

  39. corinne blaine June 22, 2013 / 8:59 pm

    so true! I just paid my student loans off took me ten years to do it

  40. Morgan Merriman June 22, 2013 / 9:22 pm

    Great read

  41. Josie June 22, 2013 / 9:32 pm

    Thanks, everyone! I’m glad my experience can help other people. :)

  42. Alexis Garcia June 22, 2013 / 9:39 pm

    I hope I find a way to combat future student loan debt

  43. Joel Davis June 22, 2013 / 10:18 pm

    Definitely a good insite as to how to go about student loans, its always nice to have a view from someone else who is also struggling with student loans.

  44. Victoria June 22, 2013 / 10:26 pm

    What you said is VERY true. My parents warned me but I was so determined on going to my “dream” school that all the talks of loans and the debt went over my head. I’m about to be a freshman in college…you have given me hope!

  45. Julie N. June 22, 2013 / 11:05 pm

    Good Advise

  46. Megan June 22, 2013 / 11:12 pm

    I wish there were more articles and information like this available to me when I started taking out student loans! But, no time like the present to start getting them under control!

  47. nata June 22, 2013 / 11:26 pm

    hopefully this helps with the hole i’m in now :/

  48. Amanda June 22, 2013 / 11:52 pm

    Your explanation of your understanding of loans sounds exactly like my understanding of them when I started college. Hopefully I’ll be done with mine by the time I’m 27 also. …

  49. Becky Mitchell June 23, 2013 / 12:26 am

    Very helpful information.

  50. Erika Duritsky June 23, 2013 / 12:56 am

    Thank you for the insight!

  51. Heather June 23, 2013 / 1:10 am

    I was this bad, but close. :$

  52. Tammy Shanks June 23, 2013 / 1:16 am

    My student loans are now going to be an issue doe to some personal emergency situations.

  53. Jennifer W June 23, 2013 / 1:38 am

    Very informative! Thank you.

  54. Donna June 23, 2013 / 2:27 am

    I did not realize how much my education cost until I was done.

  55. Maria Urena June 23, 2013 / 2:28 am

    Very nice!

  56. steve June 23, 2013 / 2:43 am

    Good information…..I am becoming rich because I turn my attention to what I want. Here is the trick….

  57. NickG June 23, 2013 / 5:43 am

    great ones!

  58. Lisa June 23, 2013 / 8:52 am

    I’m familiar with your situation and others. I’ve never finished my education due to the cost. I currently work for a non-profit that promotes consumer financial education just for reasons like these! I’m very passionate about this subject and hope to teach it someday.

  59. Tammy Hession June 23, 2013 / 8:58 am

    I am taking advantage right now of the loans to help with my living expenses. It came at a time well needed. I however only getting what I really need. As soon as I am back to work full time. I p l an on making payments early on to avoid interest.

  60. Julie Pletcher June 23, 2013 / 9:40 am

    I think student debt is an increasing problem in the USA, more people take the loans out without being educated on the debt they are facing. I myself think this campaign that SALT has produced is a wonderful thing.

  61. Sarah Rau June 23, 2013 / 10:47 am

    all too common these days…

  62. Matthew Pennington June 23, 2013 / 11:18 am

    Very nice!

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