Here's how it all began...
I started my college career at a public out-of-state university. After my scholarships and financial aid I still owed about $15,000. Parent loans were not a possibility and I was worried about having to make interest payments while still in school, so I chose to finance the remainder of my education with private student loans.
Together my father and I decided that I should take out $18,000. The extra $3,000 to cover books, food and any incidentals since it was not possible for my parents to assist me financially. I had a lot of good times, and made some really great friends, but in the end it was just too far beyond my means. After completing my freshman year I transferred to a university back home estimating savings of about $10,000 per year.
*Mistake #1* I was wholly unprepared! I was a first-generation college student and I had no idea what I was getting in to.
*Mistake #2* I didn't take advantage of all of my federal loan options. These are ALWAYS the best option!
*Mistake #3* I took out money for the entire year. I should have taken out my loans each semester on an as-needed basis. At the very least I would have saved myself a semester's worth of interest.
*Mistake #4* I thought loans were "no big deal". Before going in I read that the average borrower pays back their loans in 3-fold. I assumed I would have a mortgage payment by the time I was finished. I assumed correctly, but did not realize the impact of what having a "mortage" payment feels like without the cozy home to live in and while still paying rent on top of it. ugh.
*Mistake #5* I snubbed my nose at the thought of community college. After all I was graduating at the top of my class. I could not go to community college. (On a side note, I am from a very rural area and the nearest community college is a 45 minute drive away to a smaller rural community.) Depending on the major this could be a great option. For me, it could have only provided me with 1 semester of useful classes, and subsequently would have put me behind in math and physics. However, I did not realize that community colleges in the big city offered all but one class for the first two years of my degree program.
*Mistake #6* I did not make the best use of my time in high school to get a jump start on my college career. I originally had registered for PSEO my senior year at a college 3 hours away, but I got scared about being away from home, and missing my friends... Yep, bawk bawk bawk!