3 Powerful Things Student Loans Have Done for Me

I’d be lying if I said I enjoy paying for my student loans. I’m facing a $50,000 price tag and a 20-year repayment plan. It hurts to think about other things I could do with $50,000. And it’s beyond frustrating to realize I could still be paying while potentially sending my future kids to school.

Even still, I’m glad I had to take out student loans. Sound crazy? It just might be. Nevertheless, I’ve come to understand that having student loan debt isn’t all bad.

Why I’m actually glad I had to take out student loans

1. My student loans have afforded me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise

I strongly believe that college is an investment. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my education – and I wouldn’t have that education without loans.

That said, the college investment should be made within reason. I made sacrifices to keep my loans as low as possible. I lived with my parents and chose a local school instead of one of my dream universities. Just because something is an investment doesn’t mean the cost shouldn’t be kept in check.

The first career-oriented job I ever had required a college degree, even though it was entry-level. But getting in the door there was huge for me. It gave me work experience that led me to the job of my dreams and steadily increasing pay.

And you know what, I didn’t study something practical to make it happen. I followed my heart and majored in English, knowing full well the tough road I’d be in for. But I’ll never regret it. I loved my classes and my course work. My professors challenged me in ways I’d never been challenged in my education. And I use much of what I learned in my work every day.

What’s really interesting here is that I’m not alone in seeing the payoff from my degree. In a recent study run by Pew Research Center, the results showed that “college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn more annually – about $17,500 more – than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma.” This same study goes on to show that the picture of unemployment is much different for the college-educated. According to the study, college graduates are “significantly less likely to be unemployed (3.8% vs. 12.2%).”

In a post-recession era, low unemployment is just as important as a good salary.

2. My student loans forced me to take my education seriously

Remember those sacrifices I mentioned to keep my loans low? Another was taking out the smallest amount possible. That meant I had no help with living expenses.

If I wanted to buy books, have a car to get me to and from class, and be able to eat, I had to work. There were times when I wished more than anything that I could completely focus on my studies without having to work. But in the end, I’m glad I didn’t.

Working while going to school gave me skills outside of the classroom that I still use to this day. Whenever my work schedule feels out of control, I remember sleepless nights of writing papers. I also remember squeezing in homework when the restaurant I worked at was slow. And after years of waiting tables, juggling internships, and tackling a six-course load every semester, I knew I could put “multitasking” on my resume and back it up.

Not having a free ticket to school forced me to engage more deeply in my classes. It’s pretty hard to justify slacking off when you face that bill every semester. My loans help me appreciate my education more. I value every class I took because I know exactly what it cost me.

3. Having student loans helped me build credit

At a time in my life when I didn’t realize it was important, my student loans helped me build credit. Since student loans show up on your credit report, they’re an easy way to build credit at a young age. While costly, they don’t come with the high interest of a credit card.

If you have student loans and are afraid they might hurt your credit, remember that one of the biggest factors in your credit score is payment history. Make those payments on time every month and your loans can actually help you.

Bright side and all, I’m still working to knock them out ASAP

Okay, love letter to my education and the debt I had to take on to get it aside, let’s not forget that student loan debt is expensive. And the longer you keep it, the more expensive it gets.

That’s why I can balance my gratitude with a healthy vengeance towards the interest rates I pay on my loans. I’ll have these bright sides to fall back on as long as I have my loans. Still, I’m going to try and beat that 20-year repayment plan so I can start using my money for new goals.

In the end, I guess that’s what growing up is about. There are always going to be things in life that are simultaneously awesome and horrible. When I search for the benefits of the things that stress me out, I can turn that stress into something more productive and tackle the bad parts head-on.

Want help figuring out how you can beat your repayment schedule? Read our ultimate guide to paying off student loans faster!

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