Thoughts on college

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I wish I would have known and advice I wish I would have listened to about college.

I was recently talking to a friend and we both agreed that there was never any question either of us would go to college. I think we may have been the first generation that college was really forced upon. We grew up during the “you can be anything” age and I think that drove a lot of it.

Lately I’ve been thinking so much about the cost and the deceptiveness of it that comes with higher education.

I think about how my life would be now if I didn’t have so much student debt. What if I would have gone to a community college for those first two years? What if I had just paid out of pocket for that? What if I applied for more scholarships? That’s two whole years of no student debt. No interest accruing.

But there was such a stigma around community college back then that I think has dissipated a little bit now. Of course I could have just ignored all of that, but to me it was like I wasn’t getting the full experience. I wanted those friendships that formed in the dorms. I wanted the feeling of being on a campus and involved in extracurriculars. And man, do they sell the “full experience.” The admissions counselors and tour guides are eager to give you those warm fuzzy feelings that they say can only come with a four-year university when you go to visit.

And I’m fortunate that I did get all of those experiences and more. I grew as a person and met interesting people and went amazing places. But would that not have happened at a community college? Who knows. Or what if I had taken a year off between high school and college?

I know it doesn’t do any good to look back and wonder “what if?” But it sure is hard sometimes when a huge part of my paycheck goes to student loans.

I think it’s great that so much has been reported about the student loan industry and the crazy costs of education like here, here and here. This loan calculator from the New York Times is really helpful and interesting, too. I think it will help the generations after me because their parents (my generation) will know the dangers more than my parents’ generation did. College was so different back then and not as many people went. I think the parents of my generation were just not aware of what was happening at colleges when we were going.  My mom went to nursing school to become an RN in two years at a community college. That’s not even possible anymore.

I really did love my college years. I even hope to be a part-time professor one day. It’s just the expense and the whole business of it all really gets to me. Especially now that I’m looking back on it and realizing that there’s so many different ways to approach it.

What are your thoughts on college? Which route did you choose? Do you wish you would have done anything differently?

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