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One of The Most Important Decisions of Your Life

grad students with student loans

When you think about some of the most important decisions that you’ll have to make in your lifetime, what comes to mind? Do you think about where you are going to go to college? Who you are going to marry? What kind of career you will want in the future? All of these questions are very important, but there is one question that traditionally students don’t really give much thought to. The question of taking out student loans, figuring out how much to take out, and planning to pay them back seldom are discussed. Why? I am not sure. Should it be talked about? Absolutely. This decision could impact your life just as much as the other typical important questions mentioned above.

To illustrate this point, I am going to share a story from a book that I have recently read that I really admired. Its title is “Student Loan Planning”, written by Ryan H. Law, who is an accredited financial planner and a certified financial planner. He mentions a student that he met with some time ago, and gave him the name Jake to keep his identify confidential. Jake had racked up $200,000 to get an unmarketable bachelor’s degree from a private university. He was living at home with his parents, making minimum wage at his job, and had not made a single payment on any of his student loans, all of which his grandmother had cosigned on. He was embarrassed that he had ruined his grandmother’s good credit and had virtually no plan on how to get out of this massive debt. Because of this debt, he had also made a huge strain in his relationship with his grandmother and hadn’t talked with her in over a year.

Jake later says in the book that he had no idea what he was doing, and not a single person advised him to stop taking out so many student loans. He said that there was no one available to consult with about financial matters at the school, and if there would’ve been that would have been a life-changer for him and his situation. Luckily for the students at the University of Utah, we have a safe place that you can go to where you can consult about things like student loans. It is called the Financial Wellness Center! We are one of the few schools that have a resource like this, and we are really lucky. If you are unfamiliar with our services, please reach out to our office email

It seems that it is nearly impossible to talk about everything that you need to know about student loans in this short newsletter format, so I would strongly advise you to make an appointment with one of our financial counselors so that they can walk you through the entire process. I will give you some things that you can think about before your appointment. Some of these following points are adapted from the book I mentioned above. If you have the time, I would strongly encourage you to read it. It is a quick read and is packed with useful information. It is available on Amazon.

1. It is important to find out how you can make the cost of college low. Some ways of doing this are saving for college beforehand, working while going to school, selecting a major that has employers seeking for graduates, applying for both FAFSA and scholarships, and lastly living like a student. The movies are not a reality. You do not need to have the latest iPhone, especially if you used student loans to buy it. Students also don’t need extravagant apartments and lobster tails for dinner every night. One great way of finding out what is realistic for you is setting up a budget. 


2. Figuring out your cost of attendance and living expenses. Notice that there is a big difference between how much student loans you “can” take out, and how much you “should” take out. Just because you have a ton of different loan packages offered to you by the federal government, doesn’t mean that you should take it all out. The practice of taking out the maximum amount can and probably will be a dangerous game for you.


3. Know the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized means that the interest on your loan does not start racking up until 6 months after your graduation. Unsubsidized means that the interest starts racking up right at the time that you take out the loan. Subsidized loans are always a higher priority than unsubsidized loans if you have access to them. If you are confused about how to get started, it probably means you haven’t filled out FAFSA yet. Our peer mentors would be more than happy to walk you through the application.


4. Think about the future! Don’t forget this tip. Plan to repay every penny that you borrow plus interest in the future. It is very important to remember that being forgiven of your student loans is very hard. I heard a rumor once going around the U that it is relatively easy to be forgiven of student loan debt and that you should take out as many loans as possible and get forgiven down the road. This is a lie, do not fall for the trap. Your future self will likely be very sorry. There are ways to be forgiven, but it is very few people qualify. Plan to just pay them off, and you will be in good hands. For all of those seniors graduating this spring, visit the Financial Wellness Center and we can show you the different repayment options!


5. Realize that you have options. There are many ways that you can make it through your undergraduate degree. It is important to explore all of the options before you make your decision. Deciding on something because you feel like it is the only option could end up hurting you in the future. No matter what your situation is, try to find out everything that there is available to you. An old saying that my dad would always tell me is “measure twice, cut once”. Remember to put in the time beforehand to do your homework on student loans, come talk with one of our Financial Counselors, and then make your decision. You will be very grateful if you do.


This is an exciting time of life. School is starting back up, there are fun events all around, and there are plenty of new people to meet and new adventures at every corner. Remember to enjoy your experience. Please come in and see us. We can help you with so many different things. To make an appointment click here

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Last Updated: 12/12/23