A financial aid counselor works at a high school or university, and generally works directly with students and parents, assisting with the completion of financial aid forms, and making discretionary judgments regarding the distribution of financial aid to help pay for the costs of education. Someone who wants to be a financial aid counselor is generally required to have a bachelor's degree in the humanities or a related field, as well as at least two years of experience in financial aid or counseling. This job requires a high level of attention to detail, as well as extensive knowledge regarding various financial aid requirements and laws.
On a daily basis, a financial aid counselor will meet with students or parents/caregivers for a variety of reasons. Initially, a student may have questions regarding financial aid eligibility, or the various types of financial aid available. The counselor will need to be able to evaluate a student's needs and eligibility based on the information and financial data provided, and may then explain the differences between grants, loans, or scholarships, both from the government, from the university or school, or from a private party.
A financial aid counselor may then assist students in completing financial aid forms. He or she may meet with students individually, or in a workshop-type setting to help prepare a larger group of students for further education. The counselor will need to remain available after applications have been submitted in order to answer any questions, or help to resolve any problems that may arise between the aid recipient and the lenders or scholarship donors.
Some financial aid counselors at universities are able to make decisions regarding the disbursement of financial aid to individual students, based on need or mitigating circumstances. Other tasks may include regular verification that students are meeting the educational or financial requirements that make them eligible for financial aid; if the student's grades fall, for example, he or she may become ineligible for a certain scholarship or aid program.
It is important for a financial aid counselor to enjoy working with people. The job requires a great deal of interaction with students and caregivers, and the counselor must be able to explain complex financial concepts clearly. It will likely be necessary to work as an assistant in the financial aid department at a school before one is able to become a financial aid counselor, to ensure a solid understanding of laws and procedures.