Student loans are sad and scary, but worth it

I started learning about the dangers of credit card debt when I was in high school.

I think the majority of high schoolers are given the classic “you will never be able to get out of debt if you keep swiping for things you cannot afford” lectures by a parent or economics teacher.

It was only when I got to my senior year of high school that student loans became a bigger topic than credit card debt.

“Just don’t do it!” I remember my high school counselor yelling at me as he shoved a handful of scholarship papers and FAFSA applications into my hand and rushed me out of his office. “Apply for every scholarship you can and use the other aid options. Just never pull a loan!”

In the following months, I was constantly bombarded with horror stories of poor college students entering the real world struggling to find jobs, unable to pay back their debt.

I was told about the horrific job market, the low-paying jobs many graduates settled for, and on top of all the hardships, years worth of student loans and accumulated interest. When the time came to pay them back, it was seemingly impossible.

Student loans seemed to mean debt forever (and college graduation seemed to mean unemployment forever), but as my scholarship opportunities were denied one after another, or when the few hundred dollars given began helping less and less, I quickly ran out of options. Like many other students across the country, FAFSA let me down. I was too rich for its kind of “help,” but I was still too poor to finance college myself.

My answer became obvious: I had to take out a loan.

Although I realize the horror stories may come true and it will take years to pay off, taking out a loan was the best decision I ever made. When it comes down to it, why would you not take every chance and opportunity to create a better future for yourself?

Unlike credit card debt, student loans reflect a type of debt more important than any pair of shoes, and they come with greater benefits than having the best outfit at the office party. Student debt reflects education, knowledge and wisdom.

Although debt accumulates year after year, so do your skills. So does your intelligence. And when all is said and done, your debt will seem minute compared to the great rewards reaped throughout college.

Student debt reflects courage and ambition. This was money spent on the premise of truly wanting and needing something more and something better. It highlights the chances you took, the changes you embraced and the sacrifices you made hoping for a perfect end result.

Unlike other debt, this debt allows you to experience the good, the bad, the crazy (and yes, the ugly) aspects of life. Student loans give you the opportunity to embrace college and experience things only college life can offer.

As you step out of your boundaries and test your own limits of courage and knowledge, you learn, you cry, you party, you study, you work, and throughout the years of college you not only grow and change into who you are, but you develop friendships and relationships with people who will continue to add to your life once real life starts.

This money is money well spent and every penny is worth it in the long run.

The sad part—a part many people fail to admit—is the fact that life comes with debt. A car loan costs a pretty penny. And so does a house loan. Why then, are we so easy to sign away our financial cares to these things, yet so reluctant to do so for education?

So yes, I may struggle making my monthly payments after graduation and I might not be able to afford brand new things or excessive amounts of fun. But in the end I will have my education, my growth, my knowledge and my memories. And you can’t put a price on that.