Requesting financial aid often feels like it requires a mile-high stack of paperwork and just getting the right type of aid can be confusing. A financial aid advisor can help students and their families navigate the complicated financial aid process and help them get the funding they need. To better understand the services these advisors can provide, we provide a breakdown of what they offer below. You can also work with a financial advisor to help you plan out your college costs and how to save enough for your expenses.
What Is a Financial Aid Advisor?
A financial aid advisor, also known as a financial aid counselor or officer, advises students and parents on the financial aid application process and offers information about aid programs suitable for them. Based on what the applicant may qualify for, they show students repayment plans and walk them through how to plan for all of their college expenses.
On top of that, financial aid advisors play a role in reviewing and assessing complete applications. They even play a part in budgeting and distributing awards to students. Additionally, many financial aid advisors also act as liaisons to connect students with government organizations, private grantors, lenders and banks.
You’ll find most financial aid advisors work in either public or private, whether four-year or two-year community colleges.
Financial Aid Advisor Responsibilities
A financial aid advisor must be a master of balance. His or her career requires the ability to work with the institution of higher learning and the student as an individual as well. Sometimes this requires they act as intermediaries between the two, but most importantly, they should represent your best interest. Some of their responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Help find financial assistance: Save you money, time and energy by assisting you in finding the financial assistance you need, such as searching for student loans, scholarships or other avenues for aid.
- Make financial aid easier: Simplify the process by working through a number of financial aid forms with you.
- Verify forms: Review said forms for accuracy and provide signatures if applicable.
- Be a liaison between departments: Serve as liaison with other higher education departments, as well as financial institutions and provides referrals if required
- Plan out your financial aid roadmap: Outline a plan specific to you that prioritizes scholarship rewards to lessen the necessary amount of student loans.
Minimum Job Requirements for a Financial Aid Advisor
Although all job requirements vary by institution, there are a few standard requirements financial aid advisors may need to meet for employment. Some education requirements may entail:
- GED or high school diploma with three years of related experience.
- Completed degree(s) from an accredited institution may substitute for the minimum experience requirements.
In addition to the minimum job requirements, financial aid advisors must have various knowledge, skills and abilities. Among some of these requirements are:
- The ability to work effectively with a vast array of individuals in a diverse community
- Strong verbal and written communication skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Ability to assess and make evaluation-based judgments
- Strong interviewing skills
- Knowledge about federal and state laws, regulations and policies that impact financial aid regulations
- Strong presentation skills
- Knowledgeable about financial aid applications, process and eligibility requirements
- Leadership skills to help lead and train staff and student employees
Working With a Financial Aid Advisor
First, when speaking with a financial aid advisor, it’s essential that the professional you’re working with has several years of experience helping students in similar situations to your own. The more experience the financial aid advisor has working with students in similar situations, the better they may understand the processes.
All students are entitled to a financial aid advisor. Therefore, if there seems to be an extensive interviewing process, you should verify the source’s legitimacy. You may need to look elsewhere for financial aid assistance.
Also, financial aid advisors don’t guarantee need-based financial aid (for example, aid given by the government). However, for students believed to be creditworthy after submitting their FAFSA, they are automatically guaranteed 100% of the difference between the aid granted and the school’s cost of attendance. If the financial aid advisor promises something you’re already entitled to, this may be a red flag.
In the case you select a higher education institution that doesn’t offer a financial aid advisor, you may want to contact a financial aid consultant. With the complexities of the financial aid process, it’s good to seek someone who can help guide you through the application process for aid, grants and scholarships.
The Bottom Line
A financial aid advisor is a vital resource for students and parents. Financial aid advisors help students get the help they are entitled to and need. If the school you plan to attend doesn’t offer a financial aid advisor, it’s wise to seek a financial aid counselor’s guidance. Taking the time to plan for your education costs can maximize the chances you will receive a financial aid letter that is generous.
Tips on Affording College
- Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to afford college, how much you need to save and what your financial roadmap might look like. Fortunately, finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Part of the solution to affording college may be taking out a loan. A free and easy-to-use student loan calculator will give you a quick read on how much you might need to borrow.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/fizkes, ©iStock.com/max-kegfire, ©iStock.com/ALLVISIONN