And here's how I continued to accumulate my debt...
Before leaving my Out-of-State University I had enrolled in a one month study abroad, and a one month independent study to follow. I took out $6000 to cover the costs of airfare, tuition, room & board and a small amount for incidentals.
While on my study abroad I was readily accepted to my new In-State University, but was shocked to see that I wasn't awarded a single scholarship. I had no idea that most scholarships are awarded to incoming freshman. My expenses were significantly less, but still much more than I had originally anticipated.
The loan amount for my tuition, housing, meal plan and living expenses for the year... $12,200.
*Mistake #7* Know your options. Don't listen to friends and do the research yourself! I was friends with a transfer student at my Out-of-State School and after having many problems he insisted that the In-State University was far superior in every aspect. I was so panicked about money that I applied to the only in-state institution I knew of that carried my major. As it was in-state and a top research university I just assumed it was my only option. I had no idea that a few of the smaller public in-state universities also carried my program (at an even lower tuition rate). AND had I really done my research, I would have learned that other neighboring states also offered my program at significantly lower tuition rates through recprocity.
*Mistake #8* Not understanding the difference between a teaching based university and a research based university. I really struggled with my transition between schools. A school is not always just a school. So after you do your homework, go out and visit them!
*Mistake #9* Not knowing what questions to ask. I recommend to any one pursuing a higher ed degree. Talk to at least two different people who have are near completion or have completed a program you are interested in. And if you don't know what to ask, just ask them if there is anything they would recommend or have done differently. Learn from the mistakes of others, especially mine!
*Mistake #10* Find ways to live beneath your means. I could not get into the dorms and being completely unfamiliar with the area had to settle for last minute $$$ student housing. I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but at this point in my life my cooking experiences were few and far between. Needless to say I was scared of having to fend for myself and paid for a pricey student meal plan to cover my lunch and supper during the school week.
*Mistake #11* REALLY do your research. I ended up spending extra money by taking classes that were unneeded. Two different semesters I was held up by 1 or 2 classes in a sequence as a result of my transfer. Later I learned that one entire semester could have been done completely at a community college for a savings of $4500 and the other semester I could have taken just the two classes and worked to pay for that semester upfront. However, I didn't even realize these were options, so I took a full class loads to keep my financial aid, which in the end resulted in more private student loans.
The following spring semester I became very ill and after a series of emergency room visits and hospitalizations I ended up not finishing my semester and retroactively withdrawing. Not wanting to fall even farther behind I used the remaining loan money and money from working to make up some of the classes that Summer.
I don't remember the particulars of every semester, but for my second year at the In-State University I did start recieving scholarships. However, I still needed $10,000 to cover the rest of my expenses which now included medical bills. Fall semester went very well, but Spring semester brought on more complications with my autoimmune diseases. Again, I fought to hold on until the very end. I should have withdrawn when my health started to decline, but I was too worried about how I would repay the money for an incomplete semester. Again, I retroactively withdrew because of medical conditions, but I still lost a second full semester of tuition.
*Mistake #12 * Not listening to my body. Not everyone can be a superhero. Know your limitations. It's better to take small losses instead of major ones.
*Mistake #13* Not having the right kind of support. At this point in my college career I became very well acquainted with disability services as well as my academic advisors.
*Mistake #14* Not having a safety net. So many times what I really needed was just a friend or family member to look in on me once in a while. If there are certain times or things you struggle with, let someone know. Ultimately you are responsible for your choices and actions, but sometimes just knowing that someone is depending on you or looking out for you can really help you avoid a major life disaster.
After a sobering conversation with one of my advisors I decided to take time away from school and focus on my health. I worked two jobs through the following Summer and Fall semesters. This gave me the ability to have a more regular schedule and focus on my health. However, back in those days if I wasn't a student I couldn't be on my parents health insurance. As much as I worked, I could not keep up with my rent, medical bills and student loans starting to come out of deferral from having been out of school for more than 6 months.
I returned to school for Spring semester of my 3rd year at the In-State School. I needed $7,300 to cover my expenses and my delinquent medical bills.
*Mistake #15* Not knowing how to deal with medical issues. While I had insurance I still encountered major medical bills. After getting threatening letters from the hospital I got scared and took out student loans to pay the balance. Hospitals have financial counselors, payment plans, sliding scales and hardship programs for a reason. Use them! (There will most definitely be a post about meeting health needs while uninsured coming soon!)
After a great Spring semester, I planned on doing a near full-time Summer session to help me regain some lost ground. In addition, I was also talked into doing another study abroad. My Senior Design Project was a global design project and this study abroad would give me the opportunity to reconnect with my international friends in their home countries. My Senior Design professor, who was also my advisor, found me a generous scholarship to help make the trip more affordable. I know that these study abroads were expensive and unnecessary, but both of my trips were amazing life experiences where I have met friends that remain my best friends to this very day. My loan amount for 3 Summer Session classes and my study abroad was $8,200.
Fall semester of my 4th year. My final semester, woohoo! $5,000 to cover my 3/4 time status and ongoing medical treatments.
Phew! That's a lot, but unfortunately that's still not all of my loans.
Over the years I also accumulated $10,000 of miscellaneous federal student loans.
Principal Loan Grand Total...