I Turned Down My Dream College. More Kids Should Do the Same.

At the tender age of 18, I made the decision to attend the university that offered me the largest financial aid package, through academic scholarships.

It’s been 17 years since that decision and I’m certain that it was the right call. If I had stuck with my first-choice school, I would have been saddled with nearly $75,000 in student loans by graduation, even after factoring in the university’s financial aid offer and what my parents were willing and able to contribute. My decision to follow the money put me in the position to graduate debt-free and allowed me to take bigger risks earlier in my career.

To put it simply, I gave up going to my dream school so that I could live my dream life.

Choosing a school that enables you to graduate with the least amount of debt, or, even better, with no debt at all, is a message more students need to hear. Many parents and college counselors encourage students to go to the most prestigious college possible, on the mistaken belief that the elite diploma will translate into better opportunities and higher earnings.

Students too often find themselves in over their heads when it comes to paying for college. More than half of students leave school with debt, and those that do owe a median $29,000. On Monday, President Joe Biden announced a plan to forgive the debt for millions of students. Yet the plan will do nothing for future students facing the same quandary about how to finance their education.