Are You a New Financial Aid Professional? Here are 5 Tips to Succeed in Your Role
No one is a stranger to the new job jitters. From the first day to the first project and beyond, you want to make a great first impression on your boss, colleagues, and the community you serve. For those new to the financial aid profession, there’s added pressure to make sound decisions for your school and families in need—talk about a balancing act!
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guidebook that tells you exactly what you need to know in your new financial aid role? Well, you’re in luck. We surveyed our community of seasoned pros and asked them: “What piece of advice would you want to give to a new financial aid professional?” Read on to find out the tips and tricks they wish they knew at the start of their career.
1. Do Everything with Heart and People in Mind
As a financial aid professional, you are exposed to everything from strategic decision-making to powerful family stories regularly; it’s what makes the job so rewarding and yet challenging due to the level of emotion involved.
When facing a difficult decision or conversation, leading with empathy and compassion can make all the difference. How do you do this? Remember that people on the other side face unique circumstances and needs. First, seek to understand the whole picture. Then, acknowledge it while being attentive, helpful, and communicating clearly.
2. Learn Both Sides of the Job
Have you ever completed a Parent Financial Statement (PFS)? Or tried uploading and submitting documents through your financial aid software? Diving in and going through the process on your own is one of the best ways to understand your new job. By learning both sides—your functions and what families experience—you’ll be well equipped to troubleshoot and guide them every step of the way. “It is always helpful for me to be able to ‘step into the weeds’ with our families,” one of our experts shared.
3. Get to Know the Industry
- Key financial aid terms and formulas: From EFC to FAF, financial aid lingo can feel like learning a new language! Dedicate time to learn the key terms and formulas so you can jump into your work with confidence.
- Thresholds and limits: Every school can set up its own thresholds and limits within their financial aid software. To do this, get to know and understand your local economy and how it impacts your set up.
- Financial aid data: Digital financial aid solutions offer robust data and reporting that can identify gaps and trends in your awarding process. By getting to know your data, you can create equitable financial aid programs that support your mission and families.
Bonus tip: Learn how to use data for forecasting and reporting in our Financial Aid Fast Facts video.
4. Create a Consistent, Strategic Awarding Strategy
One challenge about working as a financial aid professional is that there will always be more need than aid available. Because of this, it’s important to find an awarding methodology that is aligned with your school’s mission and enrollment goals.
Beyond having a strategy in place, it’s essential to consistently uphold it. Our financial aid pros note that as you will review applications, it’s easy to be swayed by a moving story. This is when you can refer to your awarding strategy to make sure you balance the needs of families with the needs of your school.
5. Seek Out Support
Creating a community that you can lean on will make you feel connected and supported in your role. Take advantage of financial aid support groups and online forums. Consider finding a mentor who you trust to ask questions and guide career progression.
Bonus tip: The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has a lot of valuable resources for financial aid professionals. Premium School and Student Services (SSS) members get access to their Financial Aid Forum to ask questions and find support.
Remember, it’s okay to ask for help! No one expects you to be an expert right away. “I did not come out of the accounting profession as a financial aid administrator, so knowing things like what additional tax documentation to ask for is complicated,” shared one of our community members.
Asking a lot of questions early on will set you up for success and show your commitment to the role. Plus, one day you will be able to return the favor by being a resource to new financial aid professionals!
Looking for More Financial Aid Help?
We hope these five tips and tricks will help you feel confident heading into your new role. As you settle in, keep in mind that we have all-in-one financial aid solutions that save you time and resources. Connect with a team member to learn more and find a solution that is right for you.