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Posts by: Jatindera Walia

Getting over being Lonely and Becoming Involved

UH is so intimidating.  If a student isn’t very outgoing, then it can be too intimidating.  We have had several inquiries from PALS about how students get involved.  Here are some tips:

a) Get to know your classmates.  They’re as scared as you are!  Swap phone numbers, e-mails, facebooks etc.

b) Get to know your (friendly) instructors.  For a small class, go and say hello after class.  For large classes, go and see them in their office hours.  Introduce yourself.  Ask about them, their subject, why they came to UH etc.

c) Join an Organization.   There is a good website with a link to a searchable list of organizations at Student Organizations

d) Go To Events. Attend concerts, plays, athletics, lectures, etc. To encourage you to do this, we have a program Cougar Trading Cards. Collect these by going to all kinds of things on campus and trade them in for prizes. Collect the whole set and get a $1000 scholarship!

Getting Your Refund

Helpful info on students looking for their refunds:

Money handled by the office of Scholarships and Financial Aid (which is pretty much everything!) is “disbursed” as follows:

Essentially, your UH bill gets paid and then anything that is left can go into an account.  The default account for this is the Higher One account:



Getting to and from Campus

For students who don’t live on campus – they have 3 choices – get dropped off, drive and park or take public transportation.


Parking is horrible at the best of times – and even worse right now as we lost essentially a large lot to construction.

There are updates about the situation that students can access from their phones (not while driving in a school zone of course!)

Good luck!


There are some van pools that are mostly faculty and staff.  However, students might find some spots.  The van pool information is at


I have ridden the Metro bus system for 12 years – and it really is fine, safe (at least between 6 am and 8 pm) and usually reliable.  So – don’t be afraid to recommend it to your students.

The main Metro website is at

The main buses that serve UH (either directly or to the Eastwood Transit Center) are 4, 9, 25, 29, 40, 41, 50, 54, 76, 80

Student who live outside Houston should be able to get to a Park and Ride bus. They can take these to:

The Downtown area (get as close to the Downtown Transit center as possible): from here, catch a 40 or 41 (to Eastwood Transit Center) or the Metro Rail

The Medical Center Transit Center: from here, catch the 4 to campus

Eastwood Transit Center: from here, you can take a UH shuttle or the 4, 9, 25 or 80 to campus.

Students who live in Houston – the same 3 target areas apply – although you might be able to take different buses to intercept the campus buses more easily.


A lot of students have questions about textbooks.  Generally, the best answer to 90% of such questions is “Ask the instructor!”  However, there are some useful tips to pass on to students:

Required vs Recommended

Buy the required books immediately, wait to see what the instructor says about recommended.

Buying the Books

The university has a contract with Barnes and Noble to run the bookstore on campus.  So – all opportunities to buy textbooks when students register etc end up being with the campus bookstore.  So, if money is not an object, the easiest thing for the students to do is to sign up online in this way.

Always opt for used books where possible.

There is one other bookstore by campus that get the book lists.    Textbook Brokers are across from the rec center.  They have the smallest collection but usually the best prices.  At the end of the semester, they also buy back a lot of “books” that the other will not.

In addition, the thrifty student will often be able to find very good deals at or other online sources.  In addition, especially for literature classes, second-hand stores around town (especially Half-Price books) are good places to look.

A lot of courses have books on reserve at the library.  This is usually NOT a good permanent alternative to buying a textbook.  However, if a book is particularly heavy, students might want to use the library version while on campus, leaving their copy at home to study there.  Of course, if the book is more of a reference book, then the library copy is a great resource.


GENERAL HELP:  Dean of Students Office.  UC 252.  Can help or refer with most non-academic issues (and sometimes help with the academic ones too)


COUNSELING:  UH provides an excellent counselling service.

If you think a student needs immediate help: 

  1. MHMRA: (713)970-7000
  2. Crisis Intervention of Houston: (713)HOT-LINE or (713)468-5463
  3. Mobile Crisis Outreach Team: (713)970-7520
  4. University of Houston Department of Public Safety (713)743-3333
  5. National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: (800)273-8255

Otherwise send them to CAPS.  Walking them over to SSC 226 will speed up the process.  Call first if you can (713-743-5454):

MEDICAL: We have a superb  Health Center which also provides Dental services:

In addition, the Optometry School has an excellent clinic:

LOANS: Books: and apply at

Emergency:  The Dean of Students Office can make emergency loans not to do with books/tuition.

Tuition/Fees: and apply at


First of all – dropping and withdrawing are two DIFFERENT things.

Students drop a class but are still enrolled in others.

However, when they withdraw, they have no classes left, i.e., they withdraw from school for the semester.

Students do this online at Peoplesoft.


There are a number of deadlines for getting some money back:

Dropped by September 9th – 100% refund for the dropped class(es)

Withdrawn by August 23rd -100% refund – $15

Withdrawn between August 24th and 28th – 80% refund

Withdrawn between August 29th and September 4th – 70% refund

Withdrawn between September 5th and 14th – 50% refund

Withdrawn between September 15th and 21st – 25% refund

Withdrawn after September  21st – NO REFUND!


Students need to maintain their hours to remain completely eligible for financial aid and scholarships.

For financial aid, they need to keep 75% of:

6 hours if halftime

9 hours if 3/4 time

12 hours if fulltime

For scholarships limitations and rules, they need to look at the terms of their original scholarship.



Financial Aid is the cause of most of the complaints and problems you will hear.  Much of this is because it CAN BE a very complicated process. 

In addition, a lot of students leave it to the last minute to apply or take care of certain things.

So that you can provide as much help to your students as possible, here is a fast summary of the important issues:


The Financial Aid office communicates with students via e-mail. E-mail will be sent to their preferred e-mail address provided at

Students can also check the status of their financial aid in many ways. The best option is to log into to look for updates. They can also call a Financial Aid customer service representative at (713)743-1010, send an e-mail to Ask Shasta, or stop by the welcome center and sign in to speak to a Financial Aid Officer (the last 3 are awfully busy most of the time!)


Students have to complete a federal form WELL IN ADVANCE of school starting (FAFSA). 

The FAFSA goes to the Department of Education for processing. They send the processed FAFSA to the student in the form of a Student Aid Report or SAR and to the University in the form of an Institutional Student Information Report or ISIR.

Once the SFA office receives an ISIR, they will review the information and notify the student via e-mail if there are any additional documents that they need in order to complete their file.

Not only might these be things left out by the student, but the Department of Education randomly selects about 50% of the students who submit the FAFSA for this process and requires UH to check the FAFSA for accuracy. All students selected like this need to submit a copy of the Institutional Verification Form (available at and a copy of their signed 2008 tax return.. Dependent students also have to submit their parent’s signed tax return. Some students may have to submit additional forms, but this will be determined on a case by case basis.

If additional documents are needed, the student needs to submit them to the SFA office ASAP so that they can continue to process your application.

If they do not need any additional documents, or if they have already been submitted and the SFA office has finished processing them, then they are awarded financial aid.

This can be in the form of scholarships, grants, loans etc as a FINANCIAL AID OFFER.

Students then have to accept this offer on

If they have only accepted grants or scholarships, there are no additional requirements.


Loan information may be found at


Most of the problems associated with financial aid have to do with students being unclear about the process or being slow in taking care of issues.

So – before you start contacting anyone, ask:

“When did you submit the Federal Form?”

“Were you asked to supply any further information?  If so, when did you do this?”

“Did you get an offer from the University of Houston Financial Aid?  If so, did you accept this?  When?”

If the answer to any of these are no, or a few days ago, then the paperwork is undoubtedly still being processed.

If it sounds like the student took care of things in a timely fashion then:

a) every student has been assigned a Financial Aid counselor.  Tell them that this person is the one they need to contact.

List is at

b) if they have an issue with their counselor, or seem like they’re at the end of their rope, then contact your EMERGENCY CONTACT.  Tell the student you’re doing this and who it is that you’re talking to.

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