The best way to impress a financial aid counselor is to be prepared and do as much research as you can before meeting with them. You want to build a positive relationship with them as they are the ones who will ultimately be able to help you receive the most financial aid as possible, including helping you apply for scholarships and grants. Here are some must things to know and do:
- Know the school’s financial aid application deadline
- Meet with the school financial aid counselor sooner rather than later
- Keep copies of everything you use to complete your college financial aid application forms
- Check with the financial aid office to make sure your file is complete
- Speak with the financial aid office about any scholarships you receive, whether they are from the school itself or from outside of the school
- Be on time for appointments
- Never be late to an appointment and call to cancel if need be
- Prepare an appeal letter, if necessary, that details your need with copies of federal tax documents or medical bills
College financial aid: Action items
Be sure to gather and submit any documentation that will provide a truthful claim of your financial situation, and always ask for a confirmation of submission. Don’t lie about anything in your financial aid application and always be open to discussing your situation. Financial aid counselors are here to help.
Be patient. Financial aid decisions can take time. Appeals can typically take more time than usual, as well as the fact that committees usually only meet a couple of times a month to review appeal submissions. Ask your financial aid counselor about an expected date, and if you haven’t heard from them in a couple of weeks at minimum, call them to follow up.
Dos when dealing with your financial aid counselor:
While you want to be assertive and make sure that your questions are answered to your satisfaction, you also want to be sure you are polite and respectful. Politeness goes a long way. Often financial aid counselors will work with you every year when applying for scholarships, grants, and loans, so you want to be sure you establish a good long-term relationship. Keep these tips in mind:
- Do call ahead to make an appointment, otherwise you might be waiting all day to speak with the counselor.
- Do make a list of any questions or concerns you have.
- Do ask what requirements are needed in order to keep getting aid in the future, for example a minimum GPA.
- Do compare your family’s expected contribution (EFC) with other schools and ask the counselor to explain the differences.
- Do ask about employment opportunities on campus.
- Do fill out and submit all applications by the deadline.
- Do ask what changes in your financial situation can affect your award.
- Do ask if outside scholarships will affect your financial aid award.
- Do thank the counselor for helping you.
Don’ts when dealing with your financial aid counselor
Remember, financial aid counselors are there to help you. While some may be rude or seem rushed, it doesn’t mean that you have to be as well. Patience goes a long way in getting the help you need.
- Don’t try to compare your award with others as each situation is different. Ask your counselor if you have any questions.
- Don’t discuss consumer debt with your counselor. Consumer debt will not be taken into account.
- Don’t give up, you can always apply again the following year.
- Don’t take out students loans just because you can. Loans HAVE to be repaid, usually with interest. Only take out loans that you absolutely need.
- Don’t be ashamed to discuss your personal finances, including bankruptcy, child-support, medical expenses, and anything else that may affect your ability to pay for tuition.
Keep these tips in mind as you are meeting with your financial aid counselor, and always remember that they are there to help you find the best financial aid package as possible.