Financing Your College Degree

As of this posting, only one semester stands between me and a Bachelor’s Degree! I’m so happy to be done with this semester and finals! As long as I keep my grades exactly as they are, I’ll be graduating summa cum laude in May. Thinking about graduating next semester is both exciting and terrifying. A college degree brings real job opportunities, a sense of achievement, and real bills.

When I started thinking about college in high school student loans were one of my biggest considerations. I wanted a school with great academics, an outgoing student body, a beautiful campus, and fun Greek Life. But more than anything, I knew I needed to be able to afford the school I ended up going to. I knew I came from a single parent household and that paying for college was my responsibility. So I made the decision to look for schools that had large percentages of their student population not receiving any financial aid. I figured that if most kids at a school didn’t need financial aid they’d be able to give more to the kids that do. When I got my financial aid packet for Bucknell, I was very happy to find out that my strategy worked out well. Everything was covered, my only portion of the bill was $7,500 in government subsidized loans for the year.

I signed up for those loans without giving it a second thought. For me, that was a great deal for my education. If I stayed there for four years I would have graduated with $30,000 in debt. This is all contingent on them still having the budget that they did when I started, which given that my first semester was Fall of 2008 is pretty unlikely. Times have gotten a lot harder for a lot of people. Now that I am only one semester away from graduating, and thankfully only have that $7,500 loan, it has made me realize how easy it is to go into big money decisions with a wishing and a hoping kind of attitude. Is $30,000 a huge amount of student loans to take on in comparison to most people graduating today? Not by a long shot. But if I knew what the economy and job prospects would be like four years later would that still seem like a manageable amount to me? Maybe not.

My point is that for my lack of number crunching I got pretty lucky. But I still have $7,500 to pay off and a bill with my name on it coming six months from May. I want to make sure that I plan paying off my college loans much better than I did taking them on. With finance, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused. Taking finance classes in college has taught me that knowledge really is power. If you don’t know what you’re doing with your money, someone is going to try and take it from you.

That is why I am so grateful that Wells Fargo has created the Wells Fargo Community. It is a free-to-use, no membership required online community dedicated to addressing financial issues faced by students and parents as they navigate college, from beginning to end. The community attracts students, parents, guidance counselors, and financial advisers and encourages an open discussion on one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make. You can ask questions, answer questions, or just read and learn about topics ranging from saving for college, finding the right college, choosing a major, and preparing for life after college.

I know I’ve learned a ton reading through the community posts about ways to make a proper budget and things to expect in life post-graduation. I’ve also gotten to add my two cents to the public-vs-private school debate and talk about whether or not I feel like AP classes are worth taking in high school. Hopefully my experiences can help someone just starting their college search. I think that free flow of opinions and knowledge and personal experience is one of the beauties of the message board. I highly recommend checking it out.

For more information about the Wells Fargo Community, please visit Wells Fargo Community’s site. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Question of the Day: What was the reason you chose the college you went to/are currently attending?


  1. says

    Oh school loans. I went to an out of state school which = higher tuition. I got great financial aid but I still had huge loans when I graduated. I paid mine off about 5 years ago. Felt so good to be done with it! Congrats and good luck!

  2. says

    I got really lucky and had a full scholarship to college based on my grades in HS and graduated without any student loans. That being said, that scholarship no longer exists in Arizona so my younger brothers are trying to figure out what they are going to do. This was a very helpful post and I will pass it along to them :)

    • says

      That is awesome you were able to get a scholarship to graduate without any loans! That is such a blessing. I wish the scholarship was still around for your brother!

  3. says

    i feel really fortunate that i was able to go to college without student loans. i received a partial scholarship, went to an in-state school, and my parents covered the rest. i chose the school due to its variety of majors (i was undecided and wanted plenty to choose from) and also its proximity to home and fact that a lot of high school friends were attending (i do not like change much, or at least didn’t then). but my parents would have paid for any school i wanted so again, i was fortunate. i have lots of friends who took out lots of loans without thinking much about it, and now they’re kicking themselves.

    • says

      Yes, it’s scary how much some of my friends took out. At the time, everyone was doing it so it didn’t seem like a big deal, but as soon as that bill starts coming it’s a scary thing!

  4. says

    i chose westminster college because it is known for a great education program, it’s small, and it isnt far from my home. i really loved the atmosphere when visiting too! i admire your research and responsibility in terms of all the finances! what great advice! i was lucky enough to have my parents pay my undergrad loans! i still am thanking them constantly for that!

  5. says

    School loans are such a bummer. I chose my undergrad school because I had a full scholarship but med school… not so much. I will graduate with tons of debt (just like all my other classmates) but I have a pay off plan and a financial advisor, so at least I’m on top of it… kinda :-)

    • says

      I think everyone who goes through med school has tons of loans, at least Josh’s friends do. Josh lucked out since he’s getting a non-medical Doctorate his program pays for it. I’m scared for what my tuition will be when I go for my MBA!

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