Your Financial Aid Office is Your Friend
Written by Lisa Phelps
One of the first friends you should make at college is in the financial aid office. While you may think you only need to worry about your finances once each year when you complete your FAFSA, there are all sorts of things your financial aid representative can help you with throughout your college career.
The Financial Aid Representative’s job is to:
• help you make smart borrowing decisions,
• help you complete your financial aid forms,
• help you in any appeals you may have regarding financial aid decisions, and
• tell you how much aid you’re qualified to receive.
The representative can give you valuable information on ways to pay for your education, including:
• Federal and private loan options,
• Aid programs your school offers,
• Deadlines for aid applications and
• Money management techniques.
They should also be your go-to resource for answers to any questions you might have about your aid package, what you can use it for, and where to go for additional private aid, should you need it. And if you need help with budgeting and financial planning (something most college students don’t have a lot of experience in!), be sure to check with your financial aid rep first.
Your representative can also help you with your Entrance Counseling. Entrance Counseling, which you can access at StudentLoans.gov with your FSA ID, explains all the responsibilities that go along with getting a loan. You must read through the online information and answer related questions as a condition of getting your Direct loan. Covered topics include understanding your loans, managing your spending, plans to repay and how to avoid default. You’ll need 20-30 minutes to complete the counseling.
There are a couple of other important people you should befriend at your school, including your:
• Admissions Counselor, whose job it is to help you find the right school —one where you’ll be happy and successful. You may meet your admissions counselor before being accepted to the school and in many cases, your counselor becomes your go-to person for guidance throughout your college career.
• Academic Counselor,who will advise you on which classes to take that coincide with your life goals. Your first meeting will be during orientation and in addition to helping you select your first semester classes, they also make it their job to help you adjust to college life. You’ll likely meet with your counselor at least once each semester to plan for the next one and to review and revise your long term plans, help you change your major if there’s a need, monitor your progress toward graduation and discuss grades.
While each school is different, chances are there is lots of information on your college’s website about the financial aid office. Be sure to check it out and don’t hesitate to contact them with any questions you may have. They’re a great resource for all things financial!
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