5 Ways Your Financial Planner Is Here for You

A college degree is a great investment — but it also takes investment. You’ll likely have questions about paying for college as you explore your financial options, and you’ll need a guide to help you get answers. Great news: Every Johnson & Wales student has a personal financial representative whose goal is to help set you on a path to a JWU degree. Here are five ways your planner is here for you:

1. We help with any questions you have about the financial aid process

"As financial planners, we are here to assist with navigating the financial aid process," says Christine Iannotti, a student financial planning counselor at JWU’s Providence Campus. "Your planner is a valuable resource; use it!”

a financial planner and a student sitting together at a desk looking at paperwork

In addition to helping students identify different ways to pay for their degree, planners can remind students of important deadlines, such as notifying when they are able to file their FAFSA for the upcoming school year. And they understand that families, not just students, will have questions, which they’re there to answer, too.

READ MORE >>> Your 6 Top FAFSA Questions, Answered

"We educate and counsel students and parents to manage their financial process required for degree completion," says Antonios Kokolis ’16, a student financial planning counselor at JWU’s Charlotte Campus. "We meet with families on a personal level to assure students and parents are knowledgeable on their options here at JWU."

"We meet with families on a personal level to assure students and parents are knowledgeable on their options here at JWU."

Jessica Redd ’23, a Culinary Arts and Food & Beverage Industry Management major, shares how she worked with her financial planner when she first arrived at JWU. "I didn’t take out any loans, but I had scholarships I wanted to make sure applied to my account, and my planner was quick with responses about that. And he was helpful with finding more scholarships, too! He sent me info to help in that process and he was helpful when I reached out to him later on about other opportunities. He really knows how to answer my questions, and he would have these step-by-step instructions. His responses were always thorough."

2. We help you navigate any curveballs

Sometimes the financial aid process can have extra steps. To confirm eligibility for aid, the U.S. Department of Education randomly selects 20-30% of students for verification of their FAFSA. JWU’s financial planners are there to assist students selected for verification with requested documents that are needed to satisfy that requirement.

"JWU financial planners can answer your questions such as 'why did I get selected' or 'did I do something wrong,'" Iannotti explains. "Nearly a third of our students are randomly selected for verification of the FAFSA, so knowing it is a random selection should alleviate some of the anxiety. Your planner can also explain how to complete the required paperwork properly."

"We listen," says Kokolis. "We then counsel and provide families with the tools needed for the best financial success. When obstacles arise in a financial situation, I investigate, counsel, and direct families with the best plans that fit their need."

Your planner can help you in a pinch, too. When Jessica Redd needed to submit paperwork for a scholarship, the link wasn’t working to upload documents. "He had me email it and then applied to the account for me," she says. "It saved the day."

3. We help you establish your eligibility

How do you know if you’ll qualify for financial aid? Assistant Director of Student Financial Planning Taryn McElroy explains how this works: "Planners can confirm certain grant eligibility and also can provide information if a student should need to file a financial aid appeal."

Financial planners can help students understand why they did or did not qualify for specific grants and scholarships and how to find the right financial opportunities.

4. We help you find money

ScholarshipUniverse is an online tool that matches accepted JWU students with the scholarship opportunities that fit them best. Your JWU financial planner will encourage you to create an account with ScholarshipUniverse, remind you of important deadlines and also advise you on other available scholarship options.

“I have had several students over the years who have financed their JWU education without having to take out a single loan, all thanks to outside scholarships,” Iannotti says. "As a student, you have to look at applying for scholarships as a part-time job with a much greater potential pay-off."

a female financial planner and a female student work together on paperwork

Kokolis explains how he and other financial planners can provide you with the tools to obtain free money for college: "Our goal is for student to have the least amount of loan debt possible. Partnering with ScholarshipUniverse allows for students to drill down and find scholarships they qualify for rather than endlessly searching."

5. We help connect you to resources

Your financial planner is here to assist you with finalizing your payment plan based on the payment options that the university offers. "Planners can help students ‘think outside of the box’ regarding the best way to finance their JWU education," says Iannotti.

a student walks through the glass hallway of the Student Support Services building at JWU

"We serve as mentors, and our efforts are to educate, counsel, and position the student and parent for financial planning success," says Kokolis. "My job is to calm, steer, and guide students down the right path to the resources that meet their financial situation."

Student Story: A Financial Planner Goes Above and Beyond

Kenner Pedigo '23, a Business Administration major, applied to JWU as a transfer student who had taken time off to save up money to continue her education. She was looking forward to joining the JWU Charlotte Campus Women’s Volleyball team, but she didn’t have parental support for college and was struggling to complete her FAFSA. Antonios Kokolis '16 was her financial planner, and Pedigo credits him for saving the day for her, saying that even her coach knows she thinks the world of Kokolis. "I honestly believe I wouldn’t be at JWU without him," she says. "Once he saw how much trouble I was having, with no other financial support, he directed me in the right path and kept me in check."

"We talked constantly, with him asking where I was on each step, making sure I was getting everything done because he genuinely wanted the best for me. He provided a comfortable space to share my experiences so that he could direct me to the right people and help me figure out options."

It was a difficult process for Pedigo to be classified as an independent student, with extenuating circumstances making the declaration deeply personal and emotional. She’s grateful that Kokolis was clear from day one that her information was confidential, and that he was able to put her at ease during a trying time. "He made it easy to talk to him. We talked constantly, with him asking where I was on each step, making sure I was getting everything done because he genuinely wanted the best for me. He provided a comfortable space to share my experiences so that he could direct me to the right people and help me figure out options."

a male financial planner and a female student look together at paperwork

Pedigo also credits her financial planner with going above and beyond by physically finding money for her when she was trying to figure out how to pay a $3,000 balance on her account. "He called me back 10 minutes later to report that he found the money to get that balance to zero," she says. "And he worked with me so much, directing me to the right people to help — not just about finances but also academics and transferring stuff."

She notes another sticky situation in which she didn’t realize that one of her scholarships needed Pedigo to send them her grades and her transcript, and she had no idea anything was outstanding until their money didn’t arrive. Kokolis got in touch with the external organization and confirmed what she needed to do. "He’d probably agree I’m one of the most confusing accounts at JWU," Pedigo says, "And he went way beyond the admissions stage to keep working with me and keep me on the right path."

Do you have questions about paying for your degree and financing your education? Connect with your Providence or Charlotte financial aid representative. 

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