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Opinion: Financial aid office offers help

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Courtney Talak | The Daily Wildcat

Students walk out of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid on the first day of classes, Aug. 21.

If the University of Arizona were to do a survey on the most hated areas on campus, I’ll bet the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid would make it into one of the top-five spots.

If you are one of the unlucky souls to realize you need to take a trip there, take a deep breath and remember to appreciate the help that the employees are trying to get you. For being such a dreaded area, the financial aid office does a pretty good job keeping students comfortable.

On the night after my first day of school, I went to check UAccess and realized I was missing $7,000 worth of scholarships. My heart sank. I needed to get the money as soon as possible.

The next morning, stress forced me out of my dorm at 7:30 a.m. The office doesn’t open until 8:00 a.m., but I thought I might be better off if I got a head-start, which is a big step for me; I’m never early for anything.

I expected to wait outside when I reached the platform on top of the steps of the administration building at 7:45 a.m. Instead, I encountered pleasant surprise number one: The office let students in before it even opens.

When I entered, I saw that a lot of people had the same idea, or nervous prompting, that I did. I wasn’t going to be number one, or even number 10, in line. It looked like a good 25 students were already sitting in the chairs inside the office, staring blankly into the distance. 

Pang of disappointment over, I assumed a chair toward the outside of the room. Those coming in five or 10 minutes after me had similar reactions. It seems it’s impossible to beat the line in the financial aid office. 

RELATED: University identifies issues in financial aid logistics during first weeks of semester

Even that early in the morning, though, the office showed an effort to make its wait bearable and less stressful. At the tables near the waiting area, there were boxes of breakfast bars and jugs of ice-cold water. I have had a similar experience every time I have visited the office. Sometimes they have giant trays of cookies too!

Though these comforts are small in an anxious wait, it does show that the office wants students to feel the best they can in their circumstances.

Thinking I’d be early, I didn’t bring anything to keep myself occupied. So I just sat there and thought about all of the ways that my visit could go wrong.

Except that’s not exactly what happened. The financial aid office was one step ahead of this problem, too.

On the waiting screen, where a student No. 35 might get stuck endlessly watching the waiting time for No. 17 tick upward, the office plays cute animal videos. I tried to ignore the screen and think about what I was going to say, but eventually I decided to watch. It did make the time pass faster and kept my stress levels down.

Eventually, my number was called. I walked up to the counter and began explaining why I should have $7,000 more disbursed than I did. 

RELATED: Student fees support resources throughout UA campus

The employee helping me looked doubtful but listened and always let me speak. He had to send messages to various supervisors about my problem, but he assured me he would not stop helping me until we had a clear verdict on my situation.

While talking, I tried to keep my stress down and my voice calm. However, I thought about how the financial aid office must see students at their worst. They are worried about their funds, about the wait messing with the timeline of their day, about communicating with people who may or may not understand their problem, while worrying about the beginning of the school year in general.

I asked my attendant about stressed students while we waited to hear back from higher up. He told me that almost 600 students came in the day before, and he appreciated that I kept calm because students do yell at the employees sometimes.

Although it’s inconvenient to have to go to the financial aid office, I saw that the employees really wanted to help me. They don’t want to add extra stress to us as we start school. They want to make it as easy as possible.

Thankfully, the office resolved my problem and I left worry-free.

The next time you have to enter the financial aid office, I hope you’ll remember how much they’re trying. They hope so hard that you’ll leave satisfied and you can be the special student that recognizes their effort and gives them a much-needed thank you. They, like everybody else, deserve recognition when they’re doing things right.


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