I am a first generation college graduate who didn’t have a plan. I attended a diverse, magnet elementary school in Brighton Park and received a very different education than some of my peers in Englewood. Scoring above average on the IOWA test and getting good grades afforded me the opportunity to be accepted to one of the best high schools in the city, Kenwood Academy. Upon graduating from Kenwood with honors, I attended Northern Illinois University, obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and ended my education at DePaul University with a Masters of Science in Public Administration. For a first generation college graduate without a plan, I was doing pretty well…until I was hit with $100,000 in student loan debt.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I don’t regret going to college at all. The experience was great; I of course learned some things, developed long-lasting relationships, did things that college students do and managed to navigate my way to my personally defined success. But that nostalgia is sometimes crushed when I’m confronted with student loan bills that are more than my monthly rent. Sadly, I’m not the first college graduate to be pimped by Sallie Mae and her cartel and I’m sure that I won’t be the last…I wish I would have had a plan.
This is for the generations behind me. I am most certainly an advocate for higher education, but aspiring graduates have to have a plan. Know what you want to do in life and map out the necessary steps to make that happen. Minimize your stress and financial debt as much as possible. Take advantage of as many opportunities that will enrich your career and last but not least, have fun! But do not, I repeat, DO NOT go to college if you feel it is not for you or without a plan…it can be a yellow brick road for some and a minefield for others. Gear up!
“Good plans shape good decisions. That’s why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true.” Geoffrey Fisher
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