When I was deciding what school to go to for my undergraduate degree I had to choose between a full-ride scholarship to Cal Lutheran or massive student loan debt from the University of Southern California. My gut told me to go to USC. I loved it there. It just felt right. But, my high school councilor told me to go to Cal Lutheran to enjoy that free education. She said there was no guarantee that a vocal performance degree would make you money after school. Actually, she told me that I was “wasting” my exceptional grades by going into an arts degree. She wanted me to go into the sciences or business… something that would “make money.” It took me 30 minutes of pleading to get her to sign off on an arts degree which she did so grudgingly. So, with crippling doubt, I accepted USC and the debt that went with it. By working two jobs while I went to school and summer gigs between school years, I was able to keep on top of the acruing interest while I was still at USC. I was then blessed to obtain a full scholarship/assistantship and stipend as I pursued my masters degree, so I thankfully did not add to my student loan debt. Still, when I finally finished my 6 years of schooling and that first loan repayment notification came in the mail, I had a mini panic attack. How was this starving artist, currently living at her parents’ house with no clear job prospects going to repay this massive sum? Looking at the interest projections, I was daunted by the fact that by the end of my repayment schedule I would have paid almost double what was originally loaned to me….. I couldn’t accept that. So I got to work. I took on any extra jobs I could find. I helped my mom at her flower shop. I worked a catering job, I started teaching a few voice lessons a week. I saved every dollar I made to pay my student loans each month: starting with the loans which had the highest interest. Later, as my voice studio took off and I began teaching yoga classes, I continued to live frugally, working extra gigs here and there and paying all of my remaining income each month to my student loans. I was going to pay these loans off as fast as possible. Every time I was about to buy something which was not a necessity, I first thought “but this money could go towards my student loans” and I put that item back. I am happy to say that this workaholic and ridiculous self-restraint worked–I paid off the remainder of my student loans in just 4 years. It felt so good that I decided to pay off my car early as well.
As I enter my 30th year, I am happy that I stuck with my gut instinct and went to USC for my undergraduate degree: loans and all. But, I am even more ecstatic that today I am completely debt free. Not many 30 year olds can say that. It’s enough to make one jump for joy.