I owe $42,140.36 (& counting) in student loans

After high school, I knew that I wanted to take my general classes at the local community college and that I didn’t want to take on any student loans. As a first generation student, I didn’t know how FAFSA worked, and applying to a big school was intimidating, and expensive. If community college worked out, then I’d finish my degree at a public state school. Then I found out about Agnes Scott, a private women’s liberal arts college. I fell in love and knew I wanted to attend. Imagine my dismay when I looked at the cost of attendance.

If I spent 4 years finishing my degree, it’d cost me $207,720-$231,860 out-of-pocket.

As a first generation student from a lower-income family, there is no way I could’ve afforded that. Luckily, I did finish my Associate’s at the local community college and transferred to Agnes Scott debt-free. I got financial aid, scholarships, grants, and was able to use that money to finish my Bachelor’s. Even though I did a lot of research through a fellowship I received, I lived at home for a majority of that time and commuted to class/lab. I took on extra jobs as a tutor (both in- and off-campus), worked as a research fellow, and even babysat. I wanted to live on-campus 1 year, so I took out a few loans to cover room & board. Worst mistake ever!

Living off-campus would have saved me tons of money as a student!

Why? I accumulated all of this debt from fees that weren’t covered by scholarships and by living on-campus. It wasn’t worth it for me because I didn’t bond with my class since I was a nontraditional transfer student, and because I worked so much. I ended up feeling uncomfortable in the dorms, so I would go home as much as possible anyway.

student loan spreadsheet
Tracking my loans through a spreadsheet

I started to track my loans through a spreadsheet on Google Sheets. Blue-highlighted cells are federal loans, while pink-highlighted cells are private loans. I’ve totaled everything up in bold red. I’m not going to lie-$42,140.36 (with interest) is very intimidating. My ultimate goal is to pay it back before I get my PhD, but that would mean that I’d have to make monthly payments of at least $1755. Considering my monthly stipend as a PhD student, this won’t work. I’m thinking of different ways to get rid of this debt ASAP, but it seems like it will take longer than 2 years.

How did you pay off your student loans?

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