Moira Valenti, one of the Granite Edvance’s senior education and career counselors, got her start as a minister. She’s been with Granite Edvance for 13 years now, but she jokes that she’s still a preacher, just with a different focus. Her current passion: The FAFSA.
As a parent of four young adults who all took different career paths, Moira knows how stressful the college application and financial aid process can be. She loves being able to guide young people and their families through the journey. That’s why she’s immersed herself in all things FAFSA.
“The counselors are asking ourselves, ‘how do we help the general public in New Hampshire. How can we support families?’” she said.
One step Moira and her team have taken is creating a new appointment type to help people get ready to file the new FAFSA prior to its debut. “It’s for people who have questions or are feeling overwhelmed,” she said. “We’re happy to explain the process, talk about the timeline, any of that.”
Over the summer, along with poring over FAFSA materials, Moira attended a “train the trainer” summit in D.C. “It was extremely helpful … I brought back a lot of good notes, a lot of good resources,” she said. “We have started training not only with our counseling staff, but we’re putting together resources for school counselors.”
One thing Moira has learned through the FAFSA-training process is that change can be good. “The FAFSA simplification act really calls for just that, the FAFSA to be more simple, more accessible to families,” she said. “The changes they have made are very much along those lines and are very positive. It’s just a transition. We’re learning some new terminology.”
Along with teaching people about the FAFSA, Moira preaches its value. “Filling it out is the only way for a student to know everything that they’re eligible for in terms of getting financial help for college,” she said. “Sometimes in filling out the FAFSA, students find out they’re eligible for programs they didn’t even know existed.”
Case in point: Moira’s own daughter, a graduate student at UNH-Manchester. Just a few weeks ago, she was able to get funding for a required internship for her biotechnology degree through the UNH work study program. She would not have been eligible for work study if she hadn’t filed her FAFSA.
Even Moira didn’t realize the importance of filing the FAFSA for graduate students. “To think she almost didn’t fill it out,” she said.