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From Debt to Budgeting, Financial Wellness Program Helps Students with $$$ Management

ball of 100 dollar bills in two outstretched hands
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Managing a budget in college can be difficult, and for many people it confusing and overwhelming. Going it alone is possible but arduous, and that is why Emerson created the Financial Wellness program (formerly known as Money Matters).

To get a better understanding of how the Financial Wellness program can help Emersonians, Carol Smolinsky, Director of Financial Wellness, Education, and Communications, spoke with Emerson Today.

Q: What is the Financial Wellness program? 

Smolinsky: The Financial Wellness program is offered through Student Financial Services to offer students and alumni the resources necessary to make confident, informed decisions regarding their personal finances and their educational expenses.

We collaborate with campus partners to create and offer workshops throughout the academic year, provide 1-on-1 financial counseling appointments with an Accredited Financial Counselor for students with complex financial questions or concerns, and offer free access to our online financial wellness platform, iGrad, to all students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

iGrad really helps to round out our program because it offers 24/7 access to webinars, online courses, articles, and videos on personal finance topics and student loans, as well as a fully curated and searchable scholarship database. Additionally, they’ve added some excellent tools for financial mindfulness and stress reduction!

Schedule an Appointment with Carol Smolinsky

Carol helped me understand my student loans and how repayment works. Honestly, Carol and the [Financial Wellness] program changed my life. I wouldn’t have gotten through school without her.

Katie Desmarais ’18

Q: The program previously was called Money Matters. Why was the name of the program changed? 

Smolinsky: Honest answer? It was time for a reboot! Money Matters has existed and offered financial counseling and education to Emerson students since at least 2014, but it was difficult for folks to determine what the program was just by looking at the name. For example, the Money Matters email address would often wind up receiving emails from students looking to speak to someone about paying their bill. Changing the name helps Emerson community members to more easily identify what they can expect from the program.

Q: Who can utilize the program? 

Smolinsky: Undergraduate and graduate students have access to all aspects of the program. Alumni are offered specific workshops in collaboration with Alumni Relations, as well as free access to iGrad. Faculty and staff are welcome to collaborate with me to create workshops or events around personal finance, and to utilize iGrad for themselves or as a tool in their work with students.

I worked with Carol when I was at Emerson on a variety of things surrounding finance.  I was a mess with finances before I worked with Carol. … I worked full time to support myself and went to school full time, I even ended up moving out of the city and taking in my younger sister my senior year. Carol helped me through all of it. 

Katie Desmarais ’18

Q: How are students, alumni, parents, etc., informed about the Financial Wellness program? 

Smolinsky: So many ways! Prospective students and parents are informed about the program through financial aid webinars and in-person recruitment events with Admissions. All new first-year undergraduate students are enrolled in the  Emersion: Foundations of Success course, which includes a lesson on financial wellness and how to engage with the program. I’m working closely with Graduate Studies to get the word out to more of our graduate students enrolled in our in-person and online programs as well. I also offer materials and information sessions during new student orientation. The program can also be found by anyone in the Emerson community using Concern Center, and is advertised to students as a resource in their SFS Portal. All events are advertised on EmConnect.

Q: Does taking advantage of this program cost any money to participate? 

Smolinsky: The Financial Wellness Program and all its resources are included in the cost of attending Emerson. There is no additional fee to participate.

Carol helped connect me with the right people at the school to get grants and scholarships and even a meal plan. She helped me get textbooks. Carol helped me budget and make realistic plans for improving my credit enough to obtain a credit card. 

Katie Desmarais ’18

Q: Hypothetically, Ernest Emerson has $50,000 in student loans. As director of the Financial Wellness program, what would you recommend Ernest do to benefit from the program? 

Smolinsky: Great question! I’d recommend that Ernest get familiar with which of their loans are federally held and which are privately held, make sure that their loan servicers have updated contact information, and review their repayment options early and often. I’d also encourage them to engage with all of the loan repayment planning tools available on iGrad and come to me or the college’s Student Loan Coordinator if they need assistance understanding the terms of their loans, or planning their future educational expenses to ensure they borrow only what they need going forward.

Q: What else should the Emerson community know about the Financial Wellness program? 

Smolinsky: There are so many ways to engage with this program, and I am always looking for new ways to provide information and resources to Emerson community members. I would love to hear directly from students what their current needs, curiosities, and concerns are regarding personal finance and educational expenses, so that I can ensure I’m providing content that is relevant and helpful. I also love to collaborate! If you would like to partner with me to bring a workshop or other educational materials to a specific group on campus or online, please get in touch.

Please contact Carol Smolinsky at or 617-824-8215.

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