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I have about the average amount of debt for someone of my age with my education level, approximately $20,000. I’ll graduate in 2012, but that will not be the final tally of my education, I intend to pursue a combined M.A and Juris Doctor degree, which will probably tack on an additional $15,000 to my debt (law school is expensive!)

What further complicates my situation is that the debt will be from two separate sources, namely, the Canadian and American governments. I really wish I had known it was possible for me to go to a Canadian university immediately, rather than accruing so much debt at the considerably more expensive American ones. That is the main source of my debt, and it’s probably the biggest mistake I ever made.

Looking back on my first  four years of figuring out financial aid, I made a lot of rudimentary mistakes. All things considered though, I was very, very lucky. I had something very few children my age had, and that was enough savings to basically pay off my first year of college.

When my father died, my family was left financially destitute, but not for long, because my dad’s friends were very kind, generous people who poured money into a benefit so that my family had enough money to pay the bills, and set up a college savings account for both myself and my sister. Truth be told, if I had just gone to UVic in the first place, there would still be money left in it, enough to pay for all five* years of my degree and some of law school. Ah well.

I also got a lot of local scholarships to help pay for the first two years. My talent for writing (Which I feel compensates for my utter lack of modesty) meant that I concentrated on the ones with an essay portion, hoping that my abilities would shine through, even though my grades weren’t stellar.

Speaking of grades, I think not making more of an effort in high school was another big mistake on my part, primarily because I went to a university that offered a WUE program, meaning that if I had cared a bit more about mathematics, I would have had in-state tuition, which would have shaved some money off of my total debt.

Enough on dwelling in the past though. I admit that I made considerably unfortunate mistakes towards the financing of my education, but I also have some plans on how to repay it. For the American portion, there’s the Student Loan Forgiveness program. Since I’m going into law, I can take advantage of programs tailored to helping law students alleviate their debt, such as serving in the nonprofit sector, which I wanted to do anyways. There’s also the Peace Corps, Americorps, or teaching in low income areas, all of which I feel I could do and actually even enjoy.

Debt is a terrible thing to be in. I wish I had been more resourceful and clever about how I spent my money and where I went to school. But it is not the end of the world, and I do not intend to let my debt limit what I do in life and reaching for my dreams. Nobody should.

* I say “five” rather than four because these days, it’s standard for students majoring in foreign languages/area studies to spend a year abroad, and depending on your university, that year abroad may not cover all the credits you need to graduate in a four year time frame.

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