A Student Loan Lesson from a High School Drop Out

Financial Benefits of Taking the PSAT


My name is Brandon Painter, and  I am currently the office manager of Focus on Learning.  I see our college-bound students worry about how they are going to pay for college,   and I relate strongly to their concerns. 

I want to share some interesting statistics I saw on SmartAsset.com’s student loan calculator

The average student loan debt today is about $28,400. This works out to about $297/month for ten years in student loan repayments.

When I saw those numbers, I groaned out loud and thought, “I wish that was all I had to pay!”   

Let me share my story.

It took me ten years to earn my undergraduate and two master’s degrees. After graduating, my total student debt was around $120,000, which averages to about $1,200 per month over ten years.  

At the moment, I am on the REPAYE Student Loan Plan that, based on my present salary,  averages out to payments of  $77.00/month for the next 25 years. After that, my student loans will be forgiven. However, that brings me no relief.  In place of the monthly payment, I will then have to pay off what may turn out to be a gigantic tax on the remaining amount.  

Since this plan is so new, nobody who is currently on it will face the repayment issue until 2035. This means that at present nobody knows what the repayment figures might be.  This does not help me sleep better at night. 

I work hard every day and would very much like to change my situation.  However, there is not much I can do about my student loans.


Why am I sharing this? 

This reality in my life today is the result of a poor decision I made while I was still in high school.  I didn’t care about school.  I didn’t think it was that important.  I gave no thought to my future. I dropped out.

 Life happened, and it wasn’t always pretty or great.  It took me about five years to realize that the path I had chosen was not the one I wanted to stay on. I encountered realities in life that I had not expected, and I wanted out.  I realized that to make a change in my life, I needed the education I had once dismissed.  I got moving, and I moved fast.  I earned my GED and made plans to go to college.  

Once I got into college,  I found my education became the most critical game-changer in my life.   Over the next ten years, I earned my BS and two master’s degrees. My education has given me the ability to make choices about what I want to do in life.  I am working towards an ambitious goal to start my own business and, though I am not there yet, find that school has given me the confidence to put my dreams into action.

 Since I didn’t take the traditional route to college,  I missed out on the scholarship opportunities that would have allowed me to graduate without massive debt.  Today’s high school students still have the opportunity to work towards the scholarships that will save them from the financial stress that I face today.  

 A critical variable for getting scholarship aid is to score well on the ACT. Every additional point on the ACT brings additional dollars.  Preparing for this coachable test to raise scores can make or break scholarship applications.  Scholarships provide the path for graduating with minimal student debt. 

In the four years, I’ve worked at FOL, we’ve helped hundreds of students go to college through our result-focused training implemented through our one-on-one tutoring, ACT prep classes, and workshops.

 I find three of our student success stories especially impressive.

— Last year, a student we worked with received a full-ride scholarship to his choice college and program. Working with us, and putting in a ton of time and effort, he raised his ACT score from a 24-36.

— Another one of our students also raised her score from the mid 20’s to the mid 30’s to earn a $100,000 in scholarship to attend the school and program of her choice.

–Lastly, there is Savannah, whose story is told in the above video.

 Keep in mind that these scholarships only last through college graduation.  Most graduate degrees are paid through loans. 

 If my undergraduate program had been paid for, I would now owe only $55,000 in graduate school debts rather than the $120,000 total  That looms over my future. 

I hope my story helps you and your student understand what the future holds and the importance of doing everything possible to earn scholarships to go to college.

Sadly, I didn’t understand the importance of the ACT when I went to high school and now I am definitely paying for my short-sightedness.



Our tested and proven ACT prep helps students at all score levels raise their scores. Whether a student prefers a one-on-one or small class format (Advanced Class, 24 hrs; Fundamentals Class, 16 hrs;  Jump Start 4 hrs), we are ready to go.

 An investment in ACT prep is an investment in your student’s future.

 Go to www.focusonlearningcenter.com/student-act-prep to learn more about our test prep or sign up for our private ACT prep tutoring or ACT prep classes. You can also give us a call at 573-886-8969 or 573-239-4074 if you have any questions.

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