It is a time of great blessings (read: free money) and great debt (read: student loan debt promissory notes).
I both love and hate this time of July. My university (where I have gone for both undergrad and grad school) produces their student aid packages like clockwork (unless, of course, our state legislatures don’t agree on a budget and back up the whole system, but I digress..).
In undergrad, it was really stressful for me from mid-July to mid-August; somehow, I never had enough between my three yearly scholarships and the financial aid package (mostly loans) I was offered, so I always had to hunt last minute for extra money. That extra money was never in my bank account, by the way.
There was a woman at the financial aid office for the university who I talked to daily for this month span every year, and every year she helped me bridge the gap between what I had and what I needed to officially enroll for the fall. I owe this woman my first-born for all of the help she’s given me (especially since she didn’t have to!). Greatest irony was, right after I graduated, she became exclusive to the School of Nursing (and not the whole university of 15,000 students). Since then, she emails me extra notices of scholarship applications she finds that may work specifically for me, and has helped me organize my application for a scholarship that paid for the majority of my first year of grad school. This woman is a saint, and when I graduate (thanks in part to her), I’m going to buy her a bunch of flowers and chocolate as a thank you (even though I owe her so much more).
Somehow, though it always comes together in the end. It’s a little easier for me now as I have made a resolution to not take out any more students loans regardless of the interest rate or amount. I work full time and make decent money, and between my fiance and I, our bills aren’t overwhelming at the moment. I made sure, after saving my 3 months’ emergency fund, to save enough for a semester’s worth of classes for this year (so if I don’t get a scholarship or have already used my $5,000 in employee tuition assistance, I’m covered).
School is important to me, but not to the tune of putting off my dreams of a house and kids significantly. I didn’t know better when I signed my undergrad promissory notes the first two years and by the third I was stuck: more loans or no degree. I know better now, and I refuse to dig the hole deeper before I even finish getting my shovel put together.
If you are looking into how to fund college or graduate school, please please please do not be afraid to email your financial aid department and ask for individualized help! Call, email or stop in…multiple times if you have to! Make sure you understand every morsel of every option available to you to fund your education, and don’t worry about annoying anyone there asking them to explain something again; it’s their job, and they are often very happy to help. Without my financial aid department and this counselor in particular, I would not have made it through undergrad financially (or through my first year of grad school).