By Helen Tran

My name is Helen Tran, a current AmeriCorps member and graduate of Boston University. This past spring, I graduated with a degree in Health Science and over $30,000 in debt. Throughout my four years I have worked multiple jobs, moved back home to cut costs, and been overall frustrated with my college experience.

Although I just graduated, as an AmeriCorps member I will not begin repaying my loans until September of 2018. I am currently placed working with high schoolers in Quincy, developing them both professionally and socially. But as I reflect on my own financial decisions made at their age, I wish someone had given me clarity on the financial process associated with assuming educational loans.

To those high-schoolers anxiously awaiting their college acceptance letters, my advice to you is this: First, when a college accepts you, you will receive your list of grants, loans, and scholarships in one package. While the total amount of aid you are awarded might look like a large sum, in reality, a large portion of it is made up of loans (government and possibly private loans). This is not free money, you will need to repay it. Second, the sum awarded is for your first year only, which means that it may change and the portion you accrue in debt will at least quadruple by the time you graduate.. Third, apply to every and any scholarship you are eligible for. Think about your financial situation and your future. Don’t let senioritis get the best of you. Because those small $500 and $1000 will add up and you’ll thank yourself later.

While all this is a well-known to those who have already gone through the process of financing college, each year a new wave of eighteen year old students is exposed to it for the first time, particularly, first-generation students or immigrant students. While politicians and education experts are disagreeing about how to fix the growing student debt crisis, I think we can all agree that making the process more transparent for families needs to be part of the solution.