Myself, I am fortunate in that my choice of career (software industry) remains quite lucrative in the midst of a recession. My wife was not so lucky, in that the crash of '08 precipitated a slow decline of her industry. I am also fortunate that, prior to landing a stable career, my parents were both willing and able to help me out with my student loans, or with first & last month rent.
Sadly I think at age 17 - 18, I am not sure anyone would've been able to make me truly understand how all the trade-offs I was making. For one thing, I made my choice of college (and ostensibly career) in the late '90s, a relatively prosperous period. Maybe I would've chosen differently in a recession. For another, I don't think I had any concept of how hard student loans could and would bite.