Author: Ricky Ruvio, First-Year Adviser serving Hibriten and West Caldwell High Schools
FAFSA season is in full swing. 1040’s here, W-2’s there, Verification Worksheets everywhere! The anxieties surrounding the correct documentation, deadlines, financial aid rewards combined with senior year makes for a possible recipe for disaster. At first glance it’s all a bit confusing, but there is hope. Financial Aid is a process, and it is our job as College Advisers to streamline and simplify this process for our students.
As advisers we are charged with the task of advocating for the best possible outcomes for the people we serve. We help them to navigate the admissions process via match and fit criteria in hopes of matriculating into the institutions that they will likely succeed. Once they get accepted, we help them decide on which institution to enroll, which is largely dictated by how generous their financial aid packages are. The demographic of the students I serve is largely at the poverty line, which is to be expected in Title I schools. These students tend to be particularly fickle when it comes to financial aid, not because they are difficult students, but because many of them have not been accustomed to this vital part of a college-going culture. For example, a student requested of me “Mr. Ruvio, explain these numbers”, and as a first generation college student, I understood where the kid was coming from. Although the FAFSA attempts to simplify the “How to” in terms of financial aid, it doesn’t do the best job in elaborating on “why?” Many students have heard of the FAFSA but they don’t necessarily know why it is important, or how it could benefit them in determining the price of going to college. College Advisers can help play a role in that explanation!
We wear many hats in the Corps: adviser, confidant, liaison, expert, and particularly during Financial Aid season, consultant. Advisers are charged with the task of interpreting and consolidating data for students. Generally, when a student comes to me with a financial aid package or a question about the FAFSA, I ask them to tell me how far along in the process they are, that way I can know how best to advise them. Some situations are more difficult to tend to; students have untraditional at-home situations, residency statuses, and inherent problems that prevent them from furthering their goals and ambitions in applying to colleges. These are hoops and hurdles that are considered with tact, and dealt with on a case by case basis. Our advocacy is a good thing, especially if it can make a difference within the lives of one of these young people. This reality keeps me on my toes as an adviser, and it is the reason that I have chosen to help students navigate the process of making themselves into the people they aspire to be.