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Tips for New Financial Aid Administrators

This file is a compilation of hints for new Financial Aid Administrators, based on messages sent to FINAID-L. Some of the information will also be of interest to new guidance counselors. Portions of this file were written by Cheryl Dedrickson of UNLV and Deborah Pratt of the University of Iowa.

1. The Educational Testing Service published "A Counseling Primer for Financial Aid Professionals" in 1991 for $9.95. For more information, write to

Educational Testing Service
Mail Stop 31V
Princeton, NJ 08541

The Table of Contents includes headings such as:

A Definition of Counseling
Roles and Responsibilities
Building Trust and Rapport
Exercising Listening Skills
Dealing with Resistance
Structuring the Interview
Stress Management
Ethical Concerns

2. The Financial Aid Transcript and the Journal of Student Financial Aid have had articles pertaining to counseling issues for financial aid professionals. For basic counseling skills, check the textbooks for entry level counseling courses. Watch for opportunities on campus for training, such as workshops on dealing with angry students.

3. The most important thing is to learn to listen carefully. When it comes to money issues, people can become irrational, angry and frustrated. If you give them some time to blow off steam they can then begin to hear what you have to say.

4. Know your school's process as well as financial aid regulations. Never promise something you can't deliver. Students would rather know the truth than be told something will happen "tomorrow" when the staff person involved knew it would never happen that way.

5. If you're researching a problem for a student, keep in touch even if you haven't found the answer yet. Keep your appointments and return phone calls as promised. Students generally have very tight schedules.

6. Know about alternative types of financial resources. Also, know what student services are available on campus and refer your students. Often, students need assistance because of a personal problem or crisis.

7. Be realistic and realize that you can't help everybody. Know that you will be frustrated by those students who apply late and expect somebody to "fix" everything for them. Whether you do or not will be dictated by your department's policies and resources. If you work with late applicants, seize that as an opportunity to educate the student about how and when to apply; explain "why" meeting deadlines is important and beneficial to them. Hopefully, you will teach them skills that will be useful later in life.

8. At times, you will find yourself hampered and bogged down in regulations. And, unless you work in a financial aid office different than most, you'll be frustrated by the lack of time and staff. You'll wonder if any student ever appreciates what you/we do for them. Then, one day, you'll get a thank you card or a graduating student will stop by to say "thanks" which will help bring you back to the reason why you choose to continue in this field.

9. The NASFAA encyclopedia is an invaluable resource for deciding bureaucratic issues.


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