I have been getting a lot of questions regarding student loans and I thought I would go over some basics! I have been asked questions such as how they work, how risky they are, how easy they are to get etc. So I thought I would take some time to write a blog post about them.
I will start by saying that contrary to what many parents/students think, student loans can be positive. Why do I say this? Well not only is it money that just sits in your bank with no interest to pay on it while in school, it also opens up many opportunities for funding from outside sources. Let me tell you a bit about what I did:
I decided in my fourth year of university I was going to go onto exchange to the University of Edinburgh. However, I was a little concerned about how much it would cost and my parents said that if I wanted to do it, I was responsible to save up the money to go. Although I made quite a bit of money in the summer, I wanted to be able to travel and I needed a safety net in order to do that. That was the point when I started looking into student loans. Prior to my fourth year, student loans weren’t even on my radar because I had been pretty successful with other scholarships and awards.
I got approved for a loan in my fourth year for something like $12,000. I had no intention of ever spending that money, but I wanted it just in case. So I put the money in a TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account) and let it earn interest. Little did I know, that by taking out a student loan, I suddenly qualified for many other scholarships and awards because I was in “financial need.” By the time I actually left to the UK, I had done over $10,000 in scholarships solely due to the fact that I had a student loan. There is a lot more funding for people who are in “financial need,” which is something I wish I had known in my first year.
Now that isn’t to say that there isn’t some negatives to student loans. Student loans can be difficult to access straight out of high-school because students often fall under their parents income regardless of how much their parents can actually contribute. Taking out a student loan requires you to have a certain degree of financial literacy. For some students, when they see $30,000 sitting in their back account, I am sure their instinct is to buy whatever they want. I was very diligent in making sure that I didn’t touch it (and luckily I didn’t need to). As a student you have to remember that a loan is still repayable. However, all of the wonderful scholarships and awards you may receive because of the loan won’t be repayable :)
With the recent Bell Let’s Talk initiative, I thought it was important for me to write my first blog post about financial stress and mental illness.
First off, it is so important to provide a platform for those dealing with any type of mental illness and to end the existing stigma that is associated with mental illness. We need to be there for each other and support one another so that nobody faces a mental illness alone.
The entire Bell Let’s Talk campaign has got me thinking a lot about what might cause mental illness and some of the struggles faced by students with mental illness. A big part of the reason that I started GrantMe is because many students are faced with high levels of financial stress. Studies show that students leaving post-secondary school with huge amounts of student debt are likely to have poor mental health upon graduation. Similarly, first year students coming into university who face financial stress among the many other stresses of university, are also more likely to face mental health issues throughout university.
Although many universities have attempted to solve these problems by giving access to resources for mental health, it is equally important that students are equipped with the financial education required to make the university experience less stressful. This is where I believe there is room for improvement. Many resources and tools are available to students in order to help them pay for school, but they are difficult to navigate and are often not directly promoted by the university.
Many students faced with a high degree of financial stress are suffering silently. Nobody wants to tell there friends that they are struggling to eat and pay rent because they are scared of what others might think about them. That sort of stigma is why many students aren’t able to get the required help they need. I can’t reiterate enough the importance of speaking up and supporting one another on all mental health issues. Although Bell Let’s Talk is a one-day initiative, the conversation around mental health is not.
I encourage everyone to take an active role in asking your friends, family, coworkers and even a stranger how they are doing. It seems so simple, but it could be saving a life. Lastly, if anyone is facing financial stress, or any other type of stress for that matter, I AM HERE FOR YOU, TO LISTEN AND HELP. So no matter what you are facing, always feel free to reach out to me.