Welcome to Let’s Get Personal, a new series at The Simple Dollar documenting real-life experiences with personal loans.
To qualify for her dream job, New Yorker Christa Angelios needed to complete an intensive publishing course at Columbia University. But because it was a six-week summer course, Christa wasn’t eligible for FAFSA or other financial aid, and since she’s financially independent from her family, she decided to take out a personal loan.
At a local Citibank branch, Christa applied for a $6,500 personal loan to pay for the course and living expenses. “I did get a scholarship to [help] pay for the tuition cost,” she says, “but I also had to stay on campus, so I had to pay rent for the six weeks that I wasn’t going to be working. [Since] we had to be present for our lectures all day for those six weeks, I had to quit my job.”
Ultimately, the six-week course proved to be a great investment in Christa’s career. She quickly landed a job at Penguin Random House, where she now works as a copyright’s assistant. However, the loan did take her two-and-a-half years to pay back. “I [still] have other student loans, but I prioritized this particular loan because of the high interest rate,” Christa says. She can’t recall the exact APR, but says it was somewhere around 24% — a stark contrast to the 7% APR on her undergraduate student loans.
In order to pay off the loan and ease her anxiety, Christa used several income sources. In addition to her full-time job at Penguin Random House, she tutored, did some freelance editing, and put all of her annual bonuses toward paying off the $6,500 loan. Life got in the way a couple of times thanks to the cost of moving in New York City, and having to scale back her freelancing.
“It took me a little while to get my tutoring and editing work back up and running, but once I did, I put as much as I could into the loan,” she adds. However, Christa says if she were to redo the whole process over again, she would spend more time researching rates and banks with more lenient fee structures.
“This is the first and only personal loan I’ve taken out,” Christa says. “I wouldn’t do it again unless it was necessary. I’ve been taking the last couple of years to focus on paying off all my debt as fast as possible, and I feel like [the personal loan] has prohibited me from being able to focus on next steps.”
Personal loans can be an incredibly helpful tool that allows borrowers to finance important decisions — in Christa’s case, her career. However, anyone considering a personal loan should make sure it’s their best option, research which lenders and which loans will best meet their individual financial needs, and calculate precisely how (and how long it will take) to pay it back.
Have you taken out a personal loan? Share your story with The Simple Dollar to be featured in our series. Reach out via email at email@example.com.