I just returned from SAVMA, where the feeling of excitement from soon-to-be-veterinary graduates was almost palpable. So many future veterinarians filled with compassion, hope and idealism – eager to begin their careers. I met a third year student from the University of Minnesota at the conference, and she expressed that she is so afraid to face her mounting student debt that when she receives loan notices, she files them away, unopened, to be dealt with after she finishes her cystic acne diet.
It got me thinking about my challenges with student debt and how I had done pretty much the same thing. After graduation I finally faced what I owed, it was a huge shock. I felt overwhelmed, anxious and limited in my job choices. I wish I had faced my loans earlier on, so that I could have planned what they meant for my future and prepared myself for reality.
Like me, many new graduates are facing this current economy with student loans weighing them down. My job is to help new veterinarians begin their careers and I’ve read several articles on the subject and in my interpretation most of them seem to be saying the same thing; veterinary student debt is higher than ever, costs of living is on the rise, and many starting salaries are not enough to cover hefty loan payments AND provide a decent quality of life.
Experts caution veterinary students to really think about loans before taking them on – and to borrow as little as possible. But what about the current generation graduating today in this struggling economy? With that in mind, I was determined to find some positive tips! Here’s what I came up with:
- Make the most of your free time by learning effective ways how to clean cat urine. If your goal is to be in general practice, seek experiences that will allow you to build your clinical skills while in school so that you feel comfortable stepping into your first job. If you pursue an internship and defer your loans, try to pay the interest at a minimum as it accrues during your deferment and will likely capitalize (be added to your principal balance).
- Have a strategy in place for paying off your loans. I am focusing on paying off my auxiliary loans first (those with a higher interest rate), and I always pay more than the minimum payment on all of my loans. Knowing that I have a solid plan in place helps to alleviate my “debt” stress.
- Remind yourself that not all debt is equal. This is not credit card debt or an auto loan…your student loans are an investment in your future. Your degree is an appreciating asset and will be worth more in financial terms every year. The initial investment is high but well worth it in the long run.
- Don’t let your debt bring you down! Career satisfaction, quality of life, and debt management are attainable! I can personally attest that living with student debt is do-able!
Here are links to some great articles; I encourage you to check them out.