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Jul 22 2017
by Emily Carpenter

Why My Student Loans Make Me Terrified to Go to My Dream School

By Emily Carpenter - Jul 22 2017
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For years I waited with anticipation for the day I could finally apply to my dream school. I memorized every detail of the university's website, watched video tours of each of the freshman dorms and imagined what my life would be like if I actually got accepted. The fear of the future haunted me.

When the time came, I filled out my application meticulously, agonizing over every detail. I had my essays checked by every teacher and re-recorded my audition videos until I knew they were perfect. I pressed "submit" and watched as my application was stolen from me forever, soon to be devoured by the eyes of the admissions council. The fear of rejection was eating at me.

I waited for my admission decision, expecting the worst. I convinced myself that rejection was inevitable and told myself to accept that I would be attending a small liberal arts college that was fine enough, but wasn't where I wanted to be. I watched as my friends beamed with excitement over their future universities while I forced a broken smile and knew I wasn't nearly as enthused as they were. The fear of unhappiness was looming closer.

I received my acceptance on a random Thursday and was so shocked that I ran out of both words and oxygen. I smiled until I couldn't smile any longer and panicked about the university's expensive tuition. After a month of intense internal battle, I decided to make the leap of faith and immerse myself in student loans to attend my dream school. I am excited, I am ecstatic, I am terrified. The fear of student debt is my harsh reality.

The thought of going to my dream school was always one that filled me with positivity and hope, but now, despite my genuine excitement, I am clouded with anxiety over how many zeroes are printed on my college bills. Everyone I speak to about my plans for university squeals over the thought of attending a prestigious school in the big apple until they consider the price tag and slyly suggest that I'm making the wrong decision. I try to convince them that after careful consideration, both myself and my parents feel confident in the path I am taking, but perhaps I'm the one that might need more convincing.

Of course, there are success stories of notable alumni making strides in their field and paying off their student debt, but there are also multitudes of students and professors who say that breaking the bank for an undergraduate degree is financially irresponsible. Images of myself in a rinky-dink town in a shoebox apartment, struggling to make ends meet while I wait tables and skip meals flash before my eyes. Am I making the right decision? Am I signing my future away just so I can be happy with the next four years? Am I ending my life before it's even started? With every loan my father takes out, I feel more anxiety and guilt in asking my family to try to pay for something we can't afford. I'm not only throwing myself into debt but also my parents, who still have to send my sister to college and someday retire. I am grateful beyond words, but I am beyond fearful of what this means for myself and my family.

Every moment is another internal battle and the fight never becomes easier. With each passing day, I am still just as afraid as I was the day before. This is the fear that has become my reality, however, this is also the fear that drives me closer to my decision and motivates me to work harder to better my condition.

Progress is only made when something needs to be improved, or when there is a challenge that needs to be overcome. Here, in my hometown, I improved myself and what I didn't think I could do. The fear of failure as I applied to my dream school motivated me to work harder in my academics, revise my common app to perfection and allowed me to watch myself get accepted. Similarly, the fear of student debt will motivate me to make the most of my education and try my best to create the life I want for myself. If nothing can be improved upon, if I am not challenged, if I am not terrified, what progress is there to be made? I did what I once considered impossible, and now, there are new hurdles to jump and as high as they seem, I'm excited to find my way of leaping over them.

"Do one thing every day that scares you." Today I choose to post this article embracing my student loans. Every day thereafter, I choose to step towards the future with intense trepidation, take that fear and turn it into a fire.

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash

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Emily Carpenter - New York University

Tisch student at New York University. I do theatre and teach it to small kiddos. Top credentials include Board Game Club President and "Most Likely to Do Anything For a Like or Retweet". Here are my words!

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