As the end of another academic year approaches, thousands of young people across the country are reaching massive milestones in their education, and indeed, in their lives. No sooner have the pens been set down following GCSEs, AS or A levels, than many young people find themselves thinking over choices about the subjects they want to study, the university they want to attend, and the potential career they may want to pursue.

With the dawn of these massive life choices can come a lot of fear and apprehension, not only for the students themselves but for parents, too. For many, they may be the first in the family to consider going on to University, and the process can be daunting. But between personal statements and UCAS applications, one of the worst applications of all looms. Of course, I mean student finance forms, and the gateway to the greatest horror of them all - the Dreaded Student Debt!

With talk in the rest of the UK about reducing tuition fees in England to £7,500 from the current £9,250 a year, student loans are a hot topic once again. Most would agree this news would spell a promising prognosis for local students hoping to fly the nest and attend a University across the water. However, BBC News’ reporting on the proposals to reduce the rates still spelled doom and gloom. Thousands of students graduate each year with tens of thousands of pounds of debt, it explained, while many are also underemployed, struggling to find work in the area in which they studied, and subsequently, gaining no extra earnings as a result of their qualifications. One young woman who they interviewed exclaimed glumly that she would be paying off her loans until she was retired.

It was this statement that caused me to accusingly shout WRONG at my television screen. I may as well have been watching an episode Goosebumps, because it too involves made up scary stories aimed at spooking the people at home. Like I said, filling in the forms to apply for finance can be a pain, but as someone who has been there and bought the t-shirt, filling in the forms was the scariest part of the whole experience.

In the UK, and Northern Ireland in particular, our student loans system is lenient to say the least. The maximum amount that Universities in Northern Ireland can charge NI residents for tuition is around £4,275 per year currently. Now, if someone from Northern Ireland decides to go to University elsewhere in the UK, or visa versa, tuition fees can be anything up to £9,250 per year. Either way, though, students are able to borrow the entire amount, and Student Finance pays the University directly.

The other aspect of the price tag that comes with going to university, however, is the living costs. If you are planning to live away from home then you’ll likely have to pay your rent, buy books and feed yourself, amongst a host of other bills. Throw in a healthy student social life and it soon all adds up. For this, students can apply for a maintenance loan. Unlike the tuition fee loan, however, this one doesn’t cover exact costs, and is instead means tested words based on the student’s household income. Some students with a lower household income may also be eligible for a maintenance grant, which you don’t have to pay back.

So, between maintenance and tuition, you’ll likely be leaving university with an average of almost £10,000 of debt per year. With more and more courses lasting four years rather than three, you don’t need a degree in mathematics to figure out that that equals a whopping amount of debt. Wouldn’t it put the fear into the best of us?

But that’s where you’re wrong - just like the girl on BBC News. You see, student loans don’t work like ordinary loans. They come with a couple of terms and conditions that they don’t often mention in the scaremongering media reports. You really don’t need to worry what will happen if you don’t earn enough after you graduate, because you won’t start paying your loans back until you earn over a certain amount. For those graduating in 2019, the threshold is just under £19,000 a year. Once you earn over that amount, you’ll start paying back at a rate of 9% of the money you earn over and above the threshold. Some quick maths for you – if you earn £25,000 a year, you’ll pay back about £38 or so a month. The money disappears from your pay check before you ever see it, as if it was just another tax, and if something changes and your earnings drop below the threshold again, your payments will stop. While student loans do earn interest, it’s at a super low rate of around 1%.

And I know what you’re thinking now – if my loan is thirty grand, and its gaining interest, and I’m only paying half a grand a year, won’t I be paying it until I’m on my deathbed?! But that’s where the most important condition of all comes into play, as if your student loans aren’t repaid within 25 years, they’ll be completely written off. So for the average student who graduates before they’re 25, your loan should be out of your life by the time you’re 50. What a great birthday that will be! Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, has been just about shouting these facts from the rooftops in the past few years, on a mission to raise awareness as so many students and parents are either misunderstanding or misinformed. And to be honest, I’d like to join him on that rooftop!

Tuition fees should be the last reason a young person decides not to attend University, and that’s a fact. Maintenance loans and the cost of living are actually more of an issue, with students whose household income just hits the borderline being disadvantaged by the expectation that higher earning parents will be able to help them out. But even then, there are thousands of students who manage it each year, and with a part time job, a bank overdraft and a student friendly budget, it can be done. Many universities also offer help through hardship funds for students in dire need. If you’re a young person hoping to go, money should be the last thing on your list of things to think about. You truly can’t put a price tag on the experience, education and earning potential that come with a degree.