I am now absolutely debt free. I'll never go into debt again. I'll probably get a mortgage some day, but no other debt.
I loaned money to go away to school for four years to get a degree that would get me a management consulting job at 21, starting at $60,000 and a $12,000 signing bonus. Some people told me that they wouldn't go to my school because it's too expensive, but the only expensive part is living costs for four years. These same people who said they wouldn't go to my school are still putting themselves through school at a local college while working at a fast food chain and will make half of what I started out at age 21. When I worked with them, I knew I wasn't there for the rest of my life. I knew it was a temporary job. Some of them believed me, but some of them probably thought I was only worth $7/hour.
I could have gone to my school without taking on so many loans. That's the only thing I would change if I went back in time. Do I regret going to my school? No way. Was I a school elitist? Yes, probably. Am I now? Not as much, but as long as you know with an 80% probability what you will make coming out for going to a certain school, take on the debt. If it's an area of study that can be done cheaper, do it cheaper and without debt.
Always do a cost benefit analysis before you pay for ANYTHING. Is the money you have to put in worth the money you will get out of it? I thought I wanted to become an executive so I went to my school and paid the money I paid. I don't want to be an exec anymore, but yes the opportunities I took while at the university have changed my future earning power forever.
If you have the scores and the requirements to get into a top 5 national school, do it. But not if you're going to party every weekend and not compete with your classmates for the best job. And not if you never seem to come out on top no matter how hard you try. If you're just average, just go with what costs less. Why go where you have too much competition? You have to know yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses while in high school. You have to position yourself for the future at a very young age and you can't just go from step A to step Z without steps B-Y. Do what you're good at. Go where you come out on top. I never applied for the jobs that the whole entire graduating class was interviewing for. I went for the ones that were a little more obscure or the ones that came after ME, not the other way around.
My internship was a stepping stone for me to get into management consulting. I didn't plan on doing what I did at my internship at the time. I took it to get my foot in the door. Be creative in how you get through life! My jobs and all my extracurricular activities since high school were things I did to develop skills I wanted to improve, and obtain experiences that would help me get myself into consulting. I didn't do it just because I just LOVE going door to door to businesses, asking for sponsorship money for a non-profit. I did it because it would help me gain confidence, help me learn to sell an idea, and help me apply my leadership skills. Everything I've done since high school may not be directly related to my future, but each offered me a new facet to my personality and that's why I was so active.
Open all your doors of opportunities so that it's up to you to close them. Most good things in life don't just happen. You make them happen. Above all, don't forget to put God first because He will lead you to do what He specifically put you on this earth to do. You can do far more with God than without Him. I know I couldn't have done what I did if it wasn't part of God's will for my life. No matter through bad or good things in life, always lean on God. God is not a good luck charm; He knows this earth is full of sin and consequence. We have the assurance that He will be there for us to lean on, no matter what, and our eternal life is secure in Him. In that sense, no matter how rough life gets, if you know you will spend eternity with God, that's all that matters. That is the hope that we have as Christians. Not hope in earthly promises, for they will fade away. God cares about our soul- what stays when we are gone from this earth.