It’s summer internship season, which means new interns here on the SALT™ Blog as well. Meet our latest—new grad Carmen Guzmán! She’s figuring out loans (and life) post-graduation. Here’s her story.
May 20, 2013: the day after graduation.
I woke up to a knock on the door. It’s the RA reminding me that I have to move out by 10:00 a.m. My cap and gown rest safely on the floor. Boxes and suitcases all packed. I just need to get my personal things, hand in my key, and go. I looked at my room one last time, and with that, my college career ended—and the uneasy feeling returned to my stomach.
So-Called “Adult-Life Problems” Are Creeping Up On Me
From now on, whenever I file paperwork, I am no longer “occupation: student.” I can no longer measure my time in summers and semesters. I wake up, and I have no class to rush to and no test to finish cramming for. The people I spent every day with for the last 4 years are all in different parts of the world.
Emails from the federal servicers pollute my inbox, letting me know how much I owe in student loans. Job searches seem to lead nowhere, and I now finally understand why my parents were pressuring me about postgrad plans during graduation brunch. “So with a film and television bachelor’s degree, you’re going into law. Right?” No, Dad. No law school for me.
Luckily, I lined up an internship at American Student Assistance® (ASA) for the summer, which gave me a 3-month leeway to figure things out, including my loans.
Who Wants To Talk About Loans? Not Me
Like most students, I accepted federal loans without really knowing what I was getting myself into. For me, college was an opportunity to leave my home in Puerto Rico and get a chance to meet people from all over the world. I knew my parents couldn’t afford to pay tuition so I took the loans and headed to Boston without hesitation. It was a great opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let it pass me by. No matter how tedious the financial aid application process was.
Once in college, I worked two jobs while being a full-time student to pay off what was left of tuition, and I’d still struggle to find enough money to fly home for Christmas. Each year, I filled out my FAFSA and I’d get my award. Whatever they gave me, I just said “yes.”
I skimmed through the never-ending paperwork and accepted terms that I wasn’t going to remember or be mature enough to comprehend. I was an 18-year-old making a decision that will affect my 30-year-old life. So when I started working at ASA®, my mind was pretty much blown.
Learn As I Learn From MY Mistakes
There are so many things that we overlook as young college hopefuls; so many penalties and interest rates that we just learn for the “entrance and exit counseling” questionnaires and later forget.
Getting a higher education is a commitment promising that you will succeed and make something out of yourself—which includes being a good citizen and paying back what you owe. I didn’t give a lot of thought into what I was signing. The word “debt” made me cringe, and I figured I’d have it all figured out by now. What a fool.
So with the help of my friends at SALT, I’m going to start taking charge of my debt, so that I am prepared for that first loan payment 6 months from now. And I will be posting my progress on this blog, in hopes that whoever reads this takes charge earlier in the “student loan game” and isn’t scared off by their own adult-life problems.
Wish me (us all) luck.
Have any advice for Carmen as she tackles her adult-life problems for the first time? Share it below.