Online Counseling User's Guide

Customize the counseling sessions

You have several free customization options to ensure the counseling sessions meet your needs. You can customize your school session by adding:

Choose the questions borrowers must answer when completing a counseling session

You can select the questions that borrowers will answer during the counseling session from a list.

  1. Login to your Access Area
  2. Mouse over Customize counseling
  3. Click on Choose test questions
  4. Select the counseling type you wish to customize
  5. Select the questions you want to display during counseling and deselect the ones you no longer want to use. You must select at least the minimum number of questions for each section of text.
  6. Once you've made your selections, you can reset the questions to your previous setting. If you're satisfied with your selection, click the Preview/Apply Changes button to preview the changes and then click on the Save Changes button. You can always restore them to the default questions.

You can submit questions for inclusion in Online Counseling if the questions you desire are not on the list. To submit a question, contact us.

Expand counseling content to include an additional topic with financial literacy and money management tips

You can choose standard or expanded counseling for each of the counseling types in which you participate. Standard counseling is the current version. Expanded counseling will include an additional topic with financial literacy and money management tips, including building good credit, budgeting, savings, credit card use, and credit reports.

  1. Login to your Access Area
  2. Mouse over Customize counseling
  3. Click on Add money management topic
  4. Select the counseling type you wish to customize
  5. Click the Yes button if you want to add the money management topic or the No button if you want to use standard counseling. The default setting is standard counseling.
  6. Clicking the Yes or No button will save your changes, displaying an "Update Successful" message

Add average indebtedness information for your school so students can understand their potential total debt picture

You can enter an average loan figure for your students per federal loan type, and then choose to display the information for students within the counseling session – giving students a total debt picture and enabling you to provide school-specific sample repayment information.

The indebtedness table appears with the accompanying monthly payment amount (based on the maximum interest rate for the loan types) above the Debt/Salary Wizard. Students can then use the wizard to do what-if analysis with varying debt levels and interest rates and determine the salary needed to support this debt.

If you don't add the average indebtedness figure, only the Debt/Salary Wizard will display.

  1. Login to your Access Area  
  2. Mouse over Customize counseling
  3. Click on Add average indebtedness information
  4. Step 1 asks you to enter the appropriate average indebtedness amounts and click to make that loan type "Active"
  5. Click to Apply Changes
  6. Click Choose indebtedness display in Step 2 at the bottom of the page
  7. Select the appropriate option to display the indebtedness information for your students. You have several options:
    • Display all active federal indebtedness levels for students for all participating federal loan counseling sessions
    • Select by loan type to display that loan's indebtedness for all participating federal loan counseling
    • Select specific federal loan counseling types to display specific loan indebtedness figure
    • Click Update

Determine whether students must complete a budget during the counseling session

You will be able to add or remove the budget calculator from the counseling sessions. By including the budget calculator, you encourage borrowers to manage their money. (The default settings exclude the budget calculator from all entrance sessions and include it in all exit sessions.)

  1. Login to your Access Area
  2. Mouse over Customize counseling
  3. Click on Determine whether students must complete a budget
  4. Select the counseling type you wish to customize
  5. Choose whether to include or exclude the budget for the counseling type
  6. Click the Apply Changes button, after which you'll see the "Update Successful" message

Customize the counseling start page to include school-specific information

This customization option allows a higher quality of service by providing important school-specific information to borrowers:

  • Important dates/deadlines
  • Disbursement procedures
  • Refund policies
  • Sample monthly repayment amounts (or use average indebtedness customization)

You also can meet regulatory requirements, providing the following on the customized page for Direct Loan and Direct PLUS entrance counseling sessions:

  • Provide contact information for questions regarding borrower’s rights and responsibilities and loan terms and conditions
  • Define half-time enrollment during regular terms and summer school, if applicable
  • Provide information on the appropriate offices borrowers should contact if withdrawing

Provide the following information to meet Direct Loan and Direct PLUS exit counseling requirements:

  • Average indebtedness and monthly payment information for student borrowers who have obtained Stafford Loans, Direct Loans, Grad PLUS Loans, and Direct PLUS loans (including Federal Family Education Loan Program and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program volume)
  • Information about how to contact the party servicing the Direct Loans (for borrowers under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program)

Mapping Your Future created a template to simplify the development of your customized page. You may create one page for each type of counseling in which you participate. You will not need to understand any coding language (e.g., HTML) to develop your page; however, some simple coding will allow you to enhance the page.

  1. Login to your Access Area
  2. Mouse over the Customize counseling
  3. Click on Create or edit counseling start page
  4. To create a new page: 
    1. Click on Create new page for the appropriate counseling type 
    2. Your school name automatically will appear at the top of the template and the counseling session instructions will be at the bottom. You can type the desired school-specific content in the box provided. (NOTE:  To prevent formatting issues, do not paste text from Microsoft Word into the Edit window. If you must paste from another document, paste the text into Notepad first, and then paste from Notepad into the page.)
    3. Choose the appropriate action at the bottom of the page and click Go:
      1. Save (default setting)
      2. Submit for approval
      3. Cancel without saving changes
    4. Review the page and click Commit to proceed. If you need to make additional changes, click the Go Back button.
  5. To modify an existing page:
    1. Locate the page and click the Edit link for it
    2. You can only edit the most recent version of the counseling page. You cannot edit pages in "Pending Approval" status until the Mapping Your Future staff approves the page.
    3. Be sure to save changes frequently and click to Commit after you have performed edits or added information, as you automatically are logged out of the Access Area after 30 minutes of inactivity.

The Page Status definitions are as follows:

  • In production: The page is live on the Mapping Your Future site.
  • Pending approval: You submitted this page to the Mapping Your Future staff for approval. The staff will review your page shortly.
  • Created; not submitted for approval: You created or edited a page but didn't submit it to the Mapping Your Future staff. You must submit the page before the changes will be displayed on the counseling page in production.

To include your school logo on the customized page, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the logo on your website
  2. Rest your mouse over the logo and right click the mouse button
  3. Choose the properties menu and copy (Ctrl-C) the URL for the logo
  4. In the Pagemaster window, click on the Image icon (looks like a postcard with a mountain on it)
  5. In the URL line of the Image Info tab, paste (Ctrl-V) the URL for your logo
  6. Follow the instructions by clicking on OK (click on yes, as necessary, to view non-secure items) to approve the logo and to place it on the customized page
  7. If the above steps do not work to display your logo, ask your web staff to provide a URL for the logo on your site and repeat steps 4 through 6.

If you want to link to other sites, Mapping Your Future recommends you create the link so it opens in a new browser window. To do so, highlight the link that is typed on your customized page, click on the Hyperlink icon (a picture of links under a globe), make sure that the URL displays in the URL field on the link dialog box, click on the Target tab, selecting New Window (_Blank) in the Target drop-down box, and click OK. 

To preview your page, click on the Preview button for the customized page and the page will open in a separate window for you to review. Close the window to return to the Pagemaster Studio.

After you are finished with your page, click to edit the page and click submit for approval to send the page to the Mapping Your Future staff for approval. The Mapping Your Future staff will review your submission to ensure there are no technical problems. 

Once the staff has approved your page, you can view the URL as follows:

  1. Login to your Access Area
  2. Mouse over the Customize counseling
  3. Click on Create or edit counseling start page

You can use that address to link directly from your website to the customized page. Borrowers also will see your customized page if they select your location and school name at the beginning of the counseling session on Mapping Your Future. 

If the staff doesn't accept the page due to technical issues, you will receive an e-mail message notifying you, and a Mapping Your Future staff member will contact you to attempt to resolve the issue.

Require borrowers to complete all fields on the student form (not just those fields that regulations require)

You can customize the student form, either requiring borrowers to complete only those fields that regulations require, or requiring them to complete all fields. The default setting requires borrowers to complete only the regulatory required fields.

  1. Login to your Access area
  2. Mouse over Customize counseling
  3. Click on Choose data you will collect
  4. Select the appropriate counseling type
  5. Review the federal required fields vs. the optional field information
  6. Click the Yes radio button if you want borrower to complete all fields (even if regulations don't require that students provide the data during the counseling type) or the No radio button if you only want borrowers to provide that that regulations require
  7. Click the Apply Changes button to save your selection. The "Update Successful" message should display.

Direct borrowers to a specific web page upon completing a counseling session

Online Counseling offers a feature enabling you to direct borrowers to a specific web page upon completing a counseling session. The linking feature allows you to link to Online Counseling, designating the web address to send borrowers to once they finish online counseling and click the Exit button. Using this feature, you can move borrowers from a website or online loan application to online counseling and, once the borrower has completed the counseling, return him or her to your website. For the borrower, the process appears seamless, thus eliminating any confusion on how to return to the site.

If you're interested in implementing this feature, you should create a free customized page for the counseling type as described above. After the Mapping Your Future staff has reviewed your submission to ensure there are no technical problems and approved the page, the URL for the customized page will display in your Access Area under Customize/Counseling Start Page.

You have two options to implement the end URL feature:

  1. Use the end URL customization feature in your Access Area:
    1. Mouse over Customize counseling
    2. Click on Direct borrowers to a specific web page upon completing a session
    3. Select the counseling type
    4. Enter the full URL for the web page where you want the student to go after the counseling confirmation page
    5. Click Apply Changes
  2. Have your technical staff program the end URL coding on your customized page link using the information below:

Use your customized counseling start page URL to link directly from your web site or loan application to the customized page, appending the variable to the end of the URL, adding "&vEndUrl=. . ." as follows:

Link: CustomizedPageURL&vEndURL=http://DestinationLink
Example: http://mappingyourfuture.org/oslc/counseling/schoolPages.cfm?SchoolPageID=5890&SchoolID=90&vEndUrl=http://mappingyourfuture.org/Money/

In this example, someone links to the sample school for Stafford entrance counseling (http://mappingyourfuture.org/oslc/counseling/schoolPages.cfm?SchoolPageID=5890&SchoolID=90). Once the borrower completes counseling and clicks the Exit button, the counseling program will send the borrower to the Financial Fitness Tools page (http://mappingyourfuture.org/Money/).

Regardless which end URL option you use, if the borrower closes the browser or goes to another web page instead of clicking the Exit button, this feature doesn't work. You might want to include text on your customized page, reminding borrowers to click the Exit button when they're done. 

You also can customize the Exit button on the confirmation page, changing it so borrowers are less likely to close the browser. In the example above, you might change the button to read, "Read more about managing your money." This option requires some minimal programming. To request documentation, contact us.

Display your school's logo in the counseling session

You can display your school's logo within the counseling session via several methods:

  • Display the logo within your customized start page. This is the easiest option and should require little or no assistance from your IT staff. Read more about this option.
  • Display the logo at the top of every page within the counseling session. This option requires minimal programming, so you might need to work with your IT staff. You can send your logo as an image and also can customize the confirmation page. To request documentation on these customization options, contact us.