Upon graduating high school, thousands of students will attend some form of secondary education. For Canadian students, this usually means heading off to a 4-year university or a 2-year polytechnic college upon finishing grade 12, 13 or CEGEP. A majority of them will finance their education by student loans, either provided by a financial institution or through governmental programs, such as OSAP.
In June 2009, I was one of them, graduating in the top 20% of my class at your average public high school with $2,000 in entrance scholarships. I felt ready to take on a bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto — and was doing fairly well in my courses.
Then I’d entered my second year in 2010
Before 2010, my tuition was paid for by my parents since I was the only child of four enrolled in post-secondary education, but then circumstances changed. With two younger siblings starting their own degree aspirations, I was informed by my parents that applying for a loan would be required for my final three undergraduate years, which didn’t bother me.
Upon reaching the end of my degree studies in 2014, I got a notice from every Canadian student loan borrower’s sworn enemy, NSLSC (National Student Loans Service Centre). The $20,000+ price tag, along with formulaic repayment details, made me feel that I had been dealt a bad hand of cards for pursuing my desire to have a higher education. “Everyone has student debt, right?” I believed. “I’ll get a job and pay this off in no time.” After graduating, I didn’t have a job and found myself struggling to pay the couple hundred dollars a month required.
I would work a variety of paid and unpaid internships, freelance and remain underemployed. This occurred until I landed at my current position at Loanerr, writing this piece in retrospect. So what are some nuggets of wisdom that I can share?
Like many students still enrolled in school or just entering the job market, I remained ignorant to how I’d pay off my student loans. My graduation date seemed so far away from when I started my program. I didn’t know that grace periods and various repayment assistant programs were provided to grant relief to students who faced difficulty paying back student loans — which are not dischargeable by bankruptcy. I didn’t know that the NSLSC, in particular, is keen to work with graduates in arranging payment plans if they have trouble making them.
Calling their hotline and paying what you can is a key action in this regard. I didn’t know that my university, and many others across the nation, provides free professional financial counseling services to current students and recent graduates. I didn’t know that just because I was degreed, it didn’t mean that I had to suffer in debt, put my goals on hold, or feign ignorance of not managing my money.
What will you do once your repayment time tolls?
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