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How This First-Generation College Grad Took Charge of Her Student Debt

Conquer your student debt. Refinance now.

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By Victoria C., an Earnest client since 2018 and currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

When I was finishing high school I knew I wanted to go to college, but that was about as far as it went. I didn’t know the first thing about applying, and hadn’t given much thought to how I was going to finance my education. I was told by some of my mentors that you should go where your gut is leading you, and in my case, that pointed me to Penn State University. The sense of community that I felt walking around the campus was so welcoming and left no doubt in my mind that Penn State is where I could grow both professionally and personally. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in a town nicknamed Happy Valley? It didn’t take long for me to feel right at home in this quaint Central Pennsylvania town.

Student Loans Were an Invisible Burden

How This First-Generation College Grad Took Charge of Her Student Debt image 1My four years at Penn State majoring in Journalism were nothing short of amazing, and I would not trade the experience for the world. However, looking back, I can’t help but picture invisible dollar signs calculating each day that I was there the way it does when you hit a jackpot on a slot machine. Except, in this case, it was the invisible interest waiting to accumulate on the private loans that I had no choice but to take out in order to afford the tuition, books, and living expenses.

As a first-generation college graduate, I can honestly say that I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I took out the loans each year. When you’re 18 years old, you are not thinking about the financial burden that awaits you post-graduation, and things like fixed interest rate versus variable interest rate were the farthest thing from my mind. I was more concerned about what dorm I was going to live in and what meal plan I should select.

Making a Payment Plan

All in, I borrowed about $80,000 in loans for my degree. I’m proud to say that I’ve paid off over $20,000 of my student loan principal balance since my graduation in Spring 2010. A few years ago I decided I was done making the minimum payments each month because that principal amount felt like it was barely moving. I wanted to use the avalanche method and tackle my highest interest loans first. This mentality enabled me to pay off four small high-interest loans over the course of two years.

Sometimes I open up my spreadsheet where I track my loan balances and payments just to remind myself of how far I’ve come. My commitment to putting my finances first has also allowed me to purchase my first home and car in the past few years as well. And that is not an easy feat for a shopaholic like me who just “needs” that new pair of shoes or cute blouse.

Refinancing With Earnest

I first heard about Earnest through Student Loan Hero, and refinancing my student loans has given me the hope that I was lacking with my remaining loans. I was able to reduce my 7% variable interest rate to a 5.25% fixed interest rate. This means that much more of my payment each month will actually be paying down my balance, which is peace of mind that I had been missing for years. Moving forward, I feel like I have positioned my debt in a way that is attainable and gives me reassurance that in the not-so-distant future, I can shed it completely.

Conquer your student debt. Refinance now.

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Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.