With nearly 70% of last year’s college graduates taking out student loans — totaling a per-student average of $29,800 — it’s safe to say there’s hardly a shortage of student-debt stories out there. Still, no matter how relatable student debt may be, each person’s experience is wholly unique to them — whether it’s triumphant, arduous, or somewhere in between. And, frankly, it’s still a tricky conversation for most people to have.
That’s why we partnered with CommonBond and asked graduates to open up about their own experiences with student debt, along with the real, practical strategies they’ve used to tackle it along the way (like enrolling in income-based repayment plans and refinancing or consolidating their loans). Because who better to advise on how to handle everything from stress to sacrifices to the triumphs of dealing with debt better than those who are actually doing it? Whether you’re in the thick of it or ready to send in your last payment, read ahead for six honest, often highly personal accounts that embrace the realities of dealing with student debt — all of which should empower you to start talking about your own.