Column: Seniors have reasons not to smile

Column: Seniors have reasons not to smile

Seniors may look happy. The weather is nice. The clothes are more revealing. Classes are almost over. A select few will be going to Fenway as part of senior week (not me, of course, but I’m not bitter). However, I urge all you underclassmen to look under the surface, because while the class of 2006 may seem happy, most are anything but.

For the past two weeks, seniors have been attending exit interviews. This saddens them. They make seniors re-evaluate life. For a great many, this will become a true-life experience at some point – just be patient.

Since fall 2001, I’ve been gallivanting around this urban oasis without a care in the world. I have glided to class on a giant marshmallow and waded through fields of lollipops. I have consumed unhealthy amounts of Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Coolattas and done absolutely nothing to contribute to the student life at Northeastern. Basically, it was a dream come true. This dream came to a crashing halt in a secluded room on the third floor of the Curry Student Center. I, along with a large group of seniors, crammed into this small room to hear the one thing about which none of us wanted to hear – student loans.

They gave me a packet, and in that packet were papers, and on these papers were very large numbers. For students with Perkins loans, like myself, there were forms that lined out a series of payments until the year 2017. The Stafford loans, usually done through loan-management companies like Sallie Mae, were less specific, but the message remained the same: I will be making payments long into the Jeb Bush administration.

These loans paid for my time here, but seeing these large numbers on paper brought this fact home. College is a costly business (yes, business) and the organizations that aided me along the way now want their money back. Instead of boring forms and numbers way too large for my mathematically-challenged brain to handle, they should have just handed me a severed horse’s head or a fish wrapped in paper.

That, in essence, is the exit interview. All those thousands of dollars, just numbers on paper before, are now a bloody horse’s head hidden under your sheets while you sleep. For example, to pay off loans in the amount of $40,000, it will take only 120 easy payments of $424 if the interest rate is 6 percent. The interest on those loans, after all is said and done, totals $13,290. For most leaving school, there is a six-month grace period. A friend of mine who graduated in 1998 told me the grace period used to be five years until the Republican-dominated Congress took care of that in the late ’90s.

Only seniors can really understand what these interviews mean. It represents the proverbial crashing down to earth. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I never wanted the offseason to end. Everyone had to refer to the Red Sox as the champions. The DVDs could be replayed for days and they never got old. There were no blown saves by Keith Foulke or any appearances by Mike Remlinger. Then opening night came at Yankee Stadium and I came to the realization that the Sox were not going to be the defending champions forever. I had to move on. The same goes for the exit interview, which was basically the 2005 season opener when you realize David Wells is your team’s best starter and then you know it is panic time.

Well, panic time is here. Graduation is around the corner and the safe routine of classes that I’ve been used to for the past 19 or so years will come to an end. The money I was able to keep from the prying hands of Boston area slum lords/real estate agents will soon be gone. Trust me, I am not alone here. All those seemingly happy seniors on campus are disguising their sagged shoulders and frowns because they were exit interview victims like yours truly. While some kids at my interview tried to joke their way through, doing so was only a psychological ploy to cover up their extreme sadness and depression. They know, as I do, that money is owed and that mortgages, minivans and Metamucil are not far behind.

It is not all doom and gloom. We have options, like getting good jobs to pay the bills or entering grad school. Personally, I can’t take any more school at this point and jobs are overrated. I plan on going the unemployed writer route. That severely reduces my options, but I do have a plan. I can’t give away too much, because the Sallie Mae people – or, as I call them, Sallie Soprano – may be reading. Let’s just say I might escape to a place where no one will find me, like TD Banknorth Garden during a Bruins game. Or maybe I’ll try Bermuda. I could take a name like Zack Morris, Adam West or Krang and live in total anonymity. In addition, they told us that in cases of death, the loans would be forgiven. Hmmm

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