Have you ever done something, and then in hindsight just thought WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING?? It usually happens to me when I go back and look at photos from the years 2000-2007. Why was my hair bright yellow/orange?? Why did I think shirts that showed about 1 inch of my lower belly were cute? Why didn’t anyone stop me?? Totally cringe worthy. Perhaps you have done something that you wish you could go back and undo. Maybe its something silly, like early 2000’s fashion. Or maybe it’s more serious, like dealing with a relationship a little more carefully or taking an exam more seriously, or something like that. For me, I wish I could go back and undo the way we did law school and graduate school as it pertains to our student loans.
Don’t make these five mistakes with your student loans:
We took too long to graduate.
Despite the AP courses and credits we earned before college which should have allowed us both to graduate early, it actually took me (Amber) 5 years to graduate. It took Danny 6.
What the heck were we doing? Not a lot of buckling down and getting after it, that is for sure. I think I changed my major 4-5 times. Danny majored in Business but needed a lot of science classes for dental school. There were a lot of FUN times, but not a lot of focused times.
I wish I had taken the summer before my freshman year to map out how I would graduate within 4 years and what specific classes I needed (versus ones that I just thought were fun, like racquetball. Which was really fun, btw). I assumed going into college that someone would be there to help me figure this out. But turns out that being an adult means just that– I needed to be an adult and figure it out. So take my advice and take the time to plan (or if you have kids, take the time to help them plan it out). It could literally save you THOUSANDS.
We estimate that we spent an additional $10,000 per year each on tuition and books. And we went to a very cheap school where tuition was about $2500 a semester. In total that is about $30,000 that we spent, simply for not having a plan!2
We didn’t shop around for the right school.
We were lucky with our undergraduate degrees to end with only one $3500 loan because the university we attended was so cheap.
We did not however, shop around for dental school. Dental school is expensive. We were both sold on the schools we wanted to attend in Utah, since we had lots of family there. We shopped around heavily for an inexpensive, highly ranked law school. I was terrified of graduating law school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and becoming a statistic– jobless or working a job making in the $30k-$60k range.
Without crunching numbers, we just assumed that dental school would be expensive no matter where we went. So we didn’t take the time to shop around for schools for him. In fact, Danny only really applied to the school that he went to! We should have thought this through more, for sure. The school he attended is actually one of the most expensive schools in the nation. Simply by carefully considering other schools, we could have saved thousands of dollars. This same concept applies to any kind of school, undergraduate or otherwise. Shop around!
We didn’t apply for scholarships.
I applied to law school fairly last minute, which means that I missed deadlines for many scholarships my first year. What I should have done though, is applied for scholarships my second and third years of school. I semi started this process but gave up because it was taking time away from studying (law students are FREAKS about the value of time). It would have well been worth the investment of my time as it could have literally saved us thousands of dollars. As for dental school scholarships, they are pretty few and far between. In hindsight, we wish we would have applied for HSPS (a scholarship offered through the military in exchange for a certain number of years of service). Definitely take the time to consider your options, because there is life outside of school, and it is expensive.
If you are pursuing your undergraduate degree, there are TONS of scholarships and grants available to you. In fact, an estimated $2.9 billion in grants and scholarships went unclaimed last year. Finding a way to get school paid for should be one of your TOP priorities.
We didn’t make student loan payments until after we graduated.
Neither of us could have really worked a 9-5 while in school, but there are TONS of other things we could have done to earn some side cash to make payments while we were still in school. (Including starting this blog. I wish I had started this sooner so you could have been on our path all the way! Have ideas? Start your own blog HERE). Most lenders will allow payments made before they are due to go straight into your principal! Uhg. Missed opportunity.
We borrowed too much.
We had a really hard time each semester trying to guess how much money we needed to borrow to cover our living expenses. It should not have been hard. Actually, it would have been really easy if we had sat down and created a budget. Each semester, we ended up with more money than we needed– that doesn’t come without consequence. In fact it comes at exactly 7.9% interest which is accruing as we speak. Sit down and make a budget, and then stick to it! Your wallet will thank you.
We weren’t terrible at navigating our student loans while we were in school, but we were certainly naive. If we could go back in time, we could have done these five things differently. So, learn from our mistakes so you don’t look back in time and feel like it’s as cringe worthy as I felt about my hair in the early 2000’s. 🙂
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