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 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.


  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.