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

  • Locate your Federal Student Loan (FSA) ID
  • If you don’t currently have an FSA ID, visit to create an ID
  • You’ll need your FSA ID for the next step, so keep it handy

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

  • Visit
  • Select “Financial Aid Review”
  • Log in using your FSA ID
  • Click “MyStudentDataDownload”
  • Save your student loan data as a .txt file (other formats are not supported – please be sure to download the information in the correct .txt format)
  • If you are unable to retrieve your loan information online, you may call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) 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.