I remember filling out my fafsa and taking out loans through HESAA in a blur. The loans were called NJCLASS loans, which was innocent sounding enough. It was a task to me, like making a doctor's appointment or taking the garbage out. I knew how to do it, from my sister who graduated from Rutgers before me. When the tuition was a lower and no one was talking about the student loan problem to make you think twice about taking them out. I knew I wouldn't get any financial assistance, because my household made too much money according to the government. We weren't anywhere close to being rich, so it was funny to think of us as being well-off by the government's standard. I didn't think it was my parents' responsibility to pay for my education. It was soley mine.
I don't think I even realized what I was typing away that day. Name. Birthday. Social Security Number. I must have hit agree and signed where I was supposed to, because I was able to start Rutgers in the Fall of 2007. No one bothered my about term bills, and I knew it had been paid by the magic of student loans.
I did this every year for Rutgers tuition. I filled out a fafsa, and then typed approximately $20,000 in the loan amount that I needed and hit submit. I felt responsible doing this, felt like I had this adult thing down. After I did that, I never thought about the loans again, thinking I had all the time in the world to figure it out. I even paid the interest while I was in school, because non-subsidized private loans accrue while you are still in school. Of course, any refund checks I got, I didn't put back into my loans, because, you know, I was young and poor. And stupid. (So stupid...)
I graduated in May 2011 with a B.A. in Mathematics. I'm proud of it, knowing I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into it, but it means nothing in the real world. The guy at Starbucks doesn't give a shit if you aced your Differential Equations exam, and the person interviewing doesn't care if your Theory of Calculus proofs are seamless.
I wonder why back them I had chosen a degree with little practical application. I think I know why now. I was young and knew EVERYTHING. "It would work out" I told myself. I mean, it had to. I did everything I was supposed to. School told me I was valuable in the real world with this degree.
It fucking lied.
After the graduation ceremony, where I got my fake diploma (the real one was in the mail), I decided to finally look at my loans after my family left and the party was over.
I started to fucking panic.