This article is adapted from The Bridge, a publication for new Concordia students, produced by Counselling and Development. Be sure to check out the other articles in the 2012-13 issue.
For Shalane Armstrong, a recent Concordia graduate (BA 12) and a self-confessed nomad who has moved 35 times, finding a place to call home has never been easy. That’s why, when she reflects back on her experience with the Financial Aid and Awards Office (FAAO), she is surprised by how “at home” the office made her feel. Armstrong admits there was something special about the FAAO that made her comfortable about coming back.
Smiling as she ticks off numbers on her fingers, she starts counting the times she dropped into the FAAO during her four years at Concordia. “Oh my, ahhhh, let’s see. There’s at least two per year over four years, plus emergencies — I would say at least 15, maybe 16 times. There were those times that I actually came to check if my loan was in because I was in a panic. Even though I knew it wouldn’t be there, I just needed to hear [someone else say] ‘It’s coming; don’t worry.’ ”
What Armstrong says she liked most about the FAAO, located on the second floor of the Guy-Metro (GM) Building in Room 230, was the personalized service she always received, and as a student with a disability, she admits to sometimes getting a little overwhelmed.
“I could just come in and say, ‘look, I have a problem; I need to talk to someone,’ ” she says. And there was always a patient and supportive staff member there to help.
Armstrong recalls her first visit to the FAAO in September, 2008. Her move to Montreal had drained her finances and her Ontario student aid funding was late. “I knew I could not have afforded to even stay here [in Montreal], let alone buy my textbooks if I didn’t have basic financial aid help,” she says. “My dad died right as I was accepted, so there was a lot of extra expense there, a lot of extra stress.”
To get some extra help, Armstrong applied for and received an in-course bursary through the FAAO scholarships and awards area. “I didn’t know about it; an advisor actually suggested it,” she says. She received a $1,500 bursary in January. “I then found out about the Student Emergency and Food Fund. I know that’s run by the Multi-faith Chaplaincy office, but I would not have known about it if I had not gone to the FAAO.”
When asked what she would like to change about her financial aid experience, Armstrong laughingly replied, “I would love not to have to pay anything back!” Then, more seriously, she adds that her only real regret is that she will no longer be able to drop by the FAAO to visit the advisors, whom she believes really made a difference in her years at Concordia.
“I like the fact that we have that available to us here at Concordia because I didn’t have it at my last school. And I found that when I was dealing with applying to other universities and stuff, it was all very impersonal, so I love the fact Concordia is a very personal university,” she says.
Being a student presents plenty of challenges and ignoring financial problems won’t make them disappear. The advisors in the FAAO are approachable and can provide students with assistance and information on financial matters related to their education.
Students can drop by the FAAO to learn more about government loans and bursaries, scholarships and awards, the Work Study program and much more. For those who can’t get to the office, the FAAO website also provides useful information, including tips on preparing a budget and money management.
• FAAO Budgeting Tips
• Read the full issue of The Bridge