As a transfer student admitted to Northeastern after taking a couple years off from college, I was a pretty typical undergrad in a lot of ways, but I was entirely independent in managing my finances. This is the case for some students even if they enter college right after high school, so I wanted to write this post about parent involvement (or lack thereof) to get some information out there about handling your financial aid for yourself as a college student.
The first thing you should know is that your parents don’t need to take care of everything for you – it might make them feel better to do so, and it might seem to take some stress off of you. But just so we’re clear, it’s not necessary! Taking things into your own hands will actually benefit you in the long run. You’ll get a better idea of the different options you have for aid, who you can talk to when issues arise, and what kind of loan debt you’re up against when you graduate.
Getting a part-time job on campus is one thing you really have to do for yourself. I started working pretty much as soon as I was admitted to NU, and that was a defining aspect of my college life. I learned a ton about campus operations by being an office assistant, and added some administrative experience to my resume. I helped the Student Employment Office with orientation sessions in the summer, and the number of parents that come in every year trying to get a job for their incoming freshman is unbelievable. I’m just going to generalize here and say that nobody wants to hire someone whose parents do everything for them! Student jobs are still jobs, and it comes down to you to represent your skills and qualities for potential employers. If you’ve never applied for a job before, well, college is a great time to start! The Student Employment web site, accessible through your myNEU portal, has listings for on-campus, off-campus, work study, and non-work study job openings for students.
Aside from employment, financial aid might need to involve your parents to some extent, but you should always make sure you know what’s happening in your name – and what’s not. The Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan is a popular option for domestic undergraduate students who need something to fill a gap between their aid and their costs. It’s a loan your parent takes out in their name, which is nice because your parents almost definitely have a better credit history than you do, and also because yay, less debt for you! Just be aware of what’s happening if you take this route: the loan will remain forever in your parent’s name and can’t be transferred or consolidated with your other loans.
Another thing you’ll most likely need from your parents is their financial information for your FAFSA and CSS Profile. It may not sound thrilling, but you should read over these things even if your parents complete them for you. If your parents are divorced and you’re not sure how they should provide information for financial aid, check out our post about that exact question!
In some cases, students don’t want their parents getting involved at all. You should know that you have the choice to keep your education information private according to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). To see your preferences, you can go to the Self Service tab on your myNEU portal and click the FERPA Status link, found in the Registrar section. You can find more information about this at the Department of Education’s website.
If you’re a graduate student, or if you opted to keep your information private per FERPA, but your parents are in fact helping you out with financial aid paperwork and such, make sure you email your financial aid counselor consenting to let them talk to your parent(s) about your information.
A major reason for this post is just to recognize that every student’s parental dependence is different, and Student Financial Services is here to support everyone. It never hurts to get to know staff on campus, and meeting with your financial aid counselor is no exception. Your counselor can help you get through paperwork, figure out how much loan money you should request, and sometimes provide information about scholarships to apply for. Counselors are available during orientation so your parents can get a chance to talk to them, but they’ll be a great resource for you over the next few years too! Still have questions about parent involvement, or just about financial aid in general? Go to the SFS contact page and get in touch.