Getting that big promotion as a financial aid director isn’t all that it is cracked-up to be. It can be a stressful time for many new to the role. I asked our leadership team for the most common tips to aspiring directors, and here they are. Smile – this will be fun! 

  1. Find a mentor. Even if this is new to you, you’ll want to grow your knowledge and career by learning from those who have ‘been there, done that’. I’m sure it’s a bit of human-nature to want to accomplish a task yourself, but you’ll be highly regarded by taking advice from a peer. From encouragement, to criticism, to networking, a mentor plays a valuable role in guiding those less experienced through the learning process.
  2. Take compliance beyond the department. If you’re leading the direction of financial aid on campus, you’ll need to gain the buy-in from other departments. Student accounts, admissions, enrolment and others will benefit from your guidance and messaging. Be proactive; set the tone. Attend other departmental meetings to ensure consistency.
  3. Don’t be afraid. Ask questions; be vulnerable; fake it until you make it. These are the best practices of many leaders when tackling tasks bigger than they are. Don’t be afraid to be you. Remember, it’s ok to say no. As a leader, you’re expected to – it’s not a sign of weakness.
  4. Use data. Share statistics, facts, and milestones with your internal (colleagues) and external (student) customers with data points aiming to simplify an otherwise complicated effort. Keep it simple, and be concise.
  5. Listen more. For your students and their families, financial aid can be stressful. For other department heads, financial aid is a big unknown. There’s no need to prove your expertise or background by talking too much. Rather, be empathetic with those that are struggling to understand by listening more than you are explaining. In most cases, people just want to know that you hear them.

At FA Solutions, we’ve helped many new directors with understanding compliance, processes & procedures, and staff management. Talk to us about our ‘mentoring’ support service that matches you with a senior-level director for ongoing development. And, smile. Visit today.