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Career Story: Student Aid Counselor At An Ivy League College

Student Aid Counselor At An Ivy League College

Job Title: Higher Education Administrator

Type of Company: I work at a university where education and research are the primary objectives.

Education: BA, Political Science, Bates College •• MA, Higher Education Administration, Boston College

Previous Experience: I've been in the financial aid field for 22 years and in my current position for eight and a half. Prior to that, I worked at Brandeis for 10 years. I started my career at a small business school right after college.

Job Tasks: I help students figure out how to afford their education. My job involves counseling students about how to apply for financial aid, how to make borrowing choices, and how to budget while they're in school. I have to understand federal financial aid regulations, institutional policies and student loan terms. Using and understanding technology is very important for my work. I am skilled in MS Office, a variety of financial aid software and other campus-based student and government systems.

A typical week in the world of a financial aid administrator means meeting with students, responding to student emails, awarding financial aid (grants, loans or work-study), working with colleges on student issues from other student services offices (admissions, student affairs, career services, the office of the registrar). It means attending meetings and trainings; strategizing about the best ways to use limited financial aid resources; producing reports for different constituents (like the Dean's office); and maintaining information on our website.

As the director for my office, I also have overall responsibility for running our offices. First, I supervise a staff of four, posting jobs when necessary, interviewing and hiring new employees, assessing training needs, evaluating people's performance, and giving positive feedback and constructive criticism. Second, I develop goals for the office in the areas of customer service, financial aid policies and staff development, to name a few.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is being able to help a student get financial aid so he can get an education. The worst part of my job is not being able to give a student enough financial aid either because he doesn't qualify or because there isn't enough money to go around.

Job Tips: Financial aid administration requires that you have a passion for helping students receive a post-secondary education. Counseling skills, a keen understanding of technology, and strong mathematical and analytical aptitude are also important.

Additional Thoughts: I love my job. Helping students is gratifying and working in an educational environment is particularly appealing.

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