How to Prepare for Your Student Loan Counseling Session

Student loan counseling can be a life-changing tool, especially for anyone feeling overwhelmed by their federal student loans. To make the most of your counseling session (and save yourself some time), there are a few steps you should take care of in advance of your appointment.

Step 1: Find/Create your Federal Student Aid ID

Step 2: Access the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)

  • Visit and log in to your account.
  • Once logged on, scroll to the bottom right corner of your dashboard and click “More Resources.”
  • Verify information as requested and then click “View Your Aid.”
  • On the top right corner of the “Aid Summary Page” there is a blue link titled, “Download My Aid Data.” Click this link.
  • Click “Continue" when prompted.
  • Save the text file (MyStudentData.txt) to your computer. 
    • If you're unable to retrieve your loan information from, you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-4-FED-AID (800.433.3243) for assistance.

Step 3: Connect with your counselor

After your appointment is scheduled, your counselor will reach out to you via email. Your counselor will ask you to provide four things in advance of your session.

  1. The txt. file of your student loan data
  2. Your total household gross income
  3. Your net monthly income
  4. Your living expenses

Gross income

This is your income before taxes, insurance, and other deductions. On a wage statement, it’s the larger number – it represents what you earned, just not what made it into your bank account. 

Net income

This is what you actually take home, after your deductions are accounted for. 

Monthly income

To accurately calculate your monthly gross and net income figures, you need to multiply your weekly income by 52 (if you’re paid every two weeks, multiply that number by 26 instead) and divide by 12.

Living expenses

This should include all of your monthly fixed bills, such as your mortgage, rent, car payment, etc., as well as your utilities (electricity, phone, cable, internet, etc.), groceries, and debt payments. Review recent bills and creditor statements to help build an accurate picture of your living expenses.

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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