I like telling stories, so telling my own seems like a good way to kick off this blog.

My high school education was, through my own intervention, somewhat haphazard. I attended multiple schools in multiple states and had probably less than the usual degree of self-discipline accorded to high school kids. I was good at doing the minimum to get by and very, very resistant to the notion that if you just sat down and did something, it was usually over with a lot more quickly than if you agonized over it incessantly and then finally did a rush job at the last minute.

Then I took a personal finance class as part of my math curriculum. Suddenly, math wasn’t just abstract formulas floating on a page – these were the numbers that defined the parameters of my life! Balancing a checkbook (this was in the early days of the Internet, and people actually still did this) was suddenly interesting! Financial management became fun!

And then I encountered the college application process. Slick glossy catalogs promising a vast network of new friends, experiences of a lifetime, travel, individualized access to thought-provoking enlightened leaders…how could I choose among the bright and shiny futures that landed in my mailbox each and every day?! Each seemed better than the last.

I applied to many, many colleges, at $100 a pop or more. I didn’t get into some, which was expected. As you’ve probably surmised, I wasn’t a stellar student. I was, however, a naive one. Personal finance classes didn’t seem to apply to college – this was an Investment in my Future. Somehow, mere acceptance into these schools proved that I that would be transformed from a mediocre student from a slightly less-than-mediocre background into a Guiding Light of the Future of Our Nation. The mysterious alchemy of the college experience would leave me with skills ensuring my continued participaiton in the middle class – if only I signed on the dotted line.

When it came down to two options, I chose the Experience. The Experience option came with a $30k student loan commitment. That is way above even the most recent figure for the average student loan debt load in 2009, $23,200, and this was nearly a decade ago. In short, there is no way that this choice made sense from a financial standpoint. After all, I was an English major, and no one expected me to do anything else.  English degrees are ACME diplomas that leave you with few marketable skills and do not substantially increase your earning power.

But I picked it. And I’m still paying it off. I’ll be spending quite a bit of time on this blog talking about the consequences of that decision and how I’ve handled the debt. I would love to hear your stories of how you chose a college or what you are looking for in a college education. I hope you’ve thought about it more critically than I did!