When I and the other applicants for TFA were sitting around chatting before the interviews, talk naturally turned to plans for the future. One girl stated, half-jokingly, "I figure the longer I stay in school, the more likely it is the world will end before I have to pay my student loans." There were a few chuckles, and others piped up about how they prefer to avoid thinking about the debt they've incurred in pursuit of their degrees.
Student loans are seen as a normal part of young adult life, and they are frequently cited as an example of "good debt." I don't exactly agree. Going to college, learning, and getting a degree are good things. Taking out loans to do so isn't, in and of itself, a good thing. It may be a necessity if you've exhausted your other options, but spending decades paying for your education is hardly something to look forward to.
Do what you can to minimize the amount of student loan debt you take on. It may not seem like a big deal right now, but you'll have more freedom after graduation if you aren't saddled with large payments. Apply for every scholarship you can, look for summer employment, and try to minimize your living expenses. Weigh financial aid offers carefully, and seriously consider finances when you decide where to attend.
An instructor at a program I attended the summer before my senior year in high school urged his students to avoid taking out loans to pay for their undergraduate degrees. He told us that if we plan to get doctorates in science, the top universities will still be around and offer fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships to pay their graduate students to attend. He insisted that graduate programs care far more about what you do while you are in college than the university you attend. It's easy to buy into the idea that an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university will help ensure future success, but people who are driven and capable should be able to get a good foundation at any decent school; a friend of mine from our (not particularly well known state school) physics department won an NSF Graduate Fellowship and was accepted by every graduate program she applied to, including MIT and UC-Berkeley. (She's at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, in case anyone was wondering.)
I'm tremendously glad I took his advice. I now have the option to take a low paying but fulfilling job for a few years before graduate school because I have no debt and substantial savings. If I owed tens of thousands of dollars, I'd feel far more pressure to pursue a more lucrative profession to try to get myself out of the hole.