what i wish i'd known about student loans

Real Budgeter Stories: What I Wish I’d Known About Student Loans

We all agree that education is important, but student loan debt in the United States recently topped $1.4 trillion. Yes, you read that right. Not million. Not billion. Trillion. That’s enough zeros to make your head spin!

And the worst part is that most students (and their parents) don’t know what they’re really getting into when they sign on the dotted line. We asked EveryDollar budgeters to share what they wish they had known about student loans before agreeing to take them on. Here’s what they said:

1. It isn’t free money.

“I wish I had known to never get a loan and take more than what I actually needed. I thought it was free money. Little did I know 15 years after graduating I would finally pay back that ‘free’ money.”

– Tara G.

2. Scholarships are better than loans.

“I should have applied for scholarships and gone to a cheaper school not a private college. I wish I put all the money I worked for toward school and not on going out. They [her student loans] will be paid off in the next year and a half though!”

– Vanessa L.

3. Get rid of them—fast.

“I wish I’d known just how important it is to prioritize paying the loans off. It’s so easy to get distracted or put other things first. Keep your eyes on the prize.”

– Jackie B.

4. Never co-sign on a loan.

“Don’t co-sign on a loan for a child. When they don’t pay, you’re stuck with it.”

– Susan M.

5. Save up and pay cash instead.

“I wish I would have just saved out of pocket. I’m paying off all that debt now plus saving to pay out of pocket to finish my nursing degree.”

– Erica P.

6. School loans will hold you back.

“I wish I’d actually understood how huge of an impact student loans would make—like having to work full time and not be able to spend more time with my children, or not going on overseas adventures like I always wanted to do.”

– Sara Q.

7. Know how long they’ll stick around.

“I wish I had realized how much I was taking on and how long it would take to pay back if making minimum payments. I should have realized, but I didn’t pay attention.”

– Jennifer B.

8. How much it hurts to make the monthly payment.

“It’s easy to justify taking student loans out when you have no idea what that kind of payment feels like. Combined, my husband and I had $90,000 in student loans. We paid them off about five years ago—and have felt so much lighter since!”

– Stacy Z.

If you want to kick your student loans out of your life, sign up for EveryDollar today! It’s free, takes less than 10 minutes to set up, and can help you focus your money on what really matters.