30 Sep 4 Questions to Boost Your Entrance Counseling

By Suzanne Angheloni, Student Connections, USA Funds

Entrance counseling is an important area that is sometimes overlooked. Here are some questions to consider as you are thinking of ways to enhance your school’s entrance counseling.

Do you have the resources to do one-on-one, in-person counseling? This approach may be more effective than simply having students complete the online version, which works great for regulatory compliance, but is not as personalized as a face-to-face discussion.

Does your analysis of defaulters indicate any information you should include beyond the required components? When you examine your defaulted borrower data, are there any patterns you can take into consideration when educating students early on? According to the Department of Education’s 2015 letter on ways you can enhance your loan counseling, it is permissible to customize your loan counseling information just for those groups of borrowers that your default prevention analysis has shown are most at risk of defaulting. Several activities are allowed beyond what is required by regulations — including anything from completion of a budgeting worksheet, to a review of online lessons, to attendance at a presentation.

Have you asked your students what they wish they knew? One of the most effective ways to create an engaging program is to involve those who will benefit from it. Find out what students need to know and how they would like to receive that information by conducting a survey. The students will already feel engaged and invested in the program because they were involved in its creation. The results of your survey can also help you identify what topics are relevant to your students – giving you insight that allows you to develop the program from their perspective.

How do you continue to provide students with information in between entrance and exit counseling? Financial literacy training offered during entrance counseling can peak a student’s interest in learning more. We found that students who took one lesson of our financial literacy and student success program curriculum often went on to take additional lessons regardless of whether those lessons were required. So, keep that momentum going by offering additional learning opportunities throughout the student lifecycle. You can recommend additional counseling at any time after completion of mandatory entrance loan counseling, as long as you don’t make completion of additional counseling a condition for receipt of Direct Loan funds.

Remember to involve your institution’s compliance staff as you are brainstorming ways to supplement or enhance your entrance counseling to make sure you are adhering to Department regulations.