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Talking about how to pay for college

How did you pay for college?

For many high school upperclassmen, fall is a time to get serious about college. There are scholarships to apply for, essays to write, and schools to visit. One high school student thinking a lot about college is Rebecca, a 16-year-old junior from Cleveland, Miss. In August, we spoke with Rebecca and her mother, Catherine, about how they planned to pay for college. It was a conversation they hadn't had before. They spent Labor Day weekend having barbecue ribs and talking financial aid.

"We talked about why we chose to take on the debt for Sarah's education at Tulane," says Catherine, referring to her older daughter. "It was a choice we made that we knew that we were going to have to do this for her to go to this school that she wanted to go to and that was so good for her."

Catherine says taking out loans to pay for Sarah's education was "good debt," considering the career path she'd like to take -- becoming a pharmacist. At this point, Rebecca is still unsure about what she would major in. She says that before talking about pursuing higher education with her family over the Labor Day weekend, she hadn't really thought about college. One point that came up during the discussion: going to school locally to save on money.

"I'm not sure that that is something that I would want to do, to stay so close to home when there are so many places that I could go," says Rebecca.  

Catherine says in hindsight she wishes Sarah had gone to a local school first, instead of spending four years at Tulane. Both Catherine and Rebecca say that they don't want to carry a lot of debt after graduating from college.

"It's almost overwhelming to think of how many options that we all have," says Rebecca.

But starting the college conversation has created a new perspective. 

"Rebecca was all excited about her school ring and we had to send in the deposit, which we did. We sent it in and she went and they met with the representative and he filled out all the papers about what she had ordered online. And then we get this text from Rebecca that says: OMG, the amount of the ring is going to be this much and that's way too much! And so she all of a sudden became very conscious and she told them to call them and tell them that she didn't need that big of a ring," says Catherine. "She's starting to be aware that maybe a little bit of excessiveness is not necessary."


Do you worry about how you're going to pay for college or pay off your loans? Write to us or leave a comment.

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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