When you’re 18, student loans sound fine. You don’t have to pay them back anytime soon — or, at least, that’s how it feels — and you may not even realize how much debt you’re taking on. Plus, you’re sure that your degree is going to get you an excellent job anyway, so paying off the loans won’t be hard.

Then you graduate and reality sets in. It’s harder to get a job than you thought. That job doesn’t pay as much. Then there’s a recession. You can’t find work. You certainly can’t pay off that debt. Are you able to discharge the loans in bankruptcy, as you can with car loans and things of this nature?

Technically, it is possible. It’s just very hard. The standard used is that making those payments creates a “severe hardship.”

That doesn’t just mean that you have trouble paying the rent or that you have to buy bargain food instead of going out to eat. It means that those loans are essentially impossible for you to pay off and are having a negative impact on your life. You also need to be in a position where it looks like repayment isn’t likely. For instance, temporarily losing your job may not qualify you for a discharge, though suffering from a disability after a car accident that makes it impossible for you to work may carry more weight.

As a young adult, if you’re already facing these types of financial challenges, it can be overwhelming. You’ll find yourself wondering what your future could possibly look like. Make sure you are well aware of all of your legal options.