10 Things Financial Aid Administrators Can’t Function Without

In the ever-changing world of higher education, financial aid administrators play a pivotal role in facilitating access to education for countless students. To navigate the intricate landscape of financial aid effectively, our members rely on a variety of resources, tools, and support systems to stay informed and motivated day in and day out. From Diet Coke and British mystery TV shows, to supportive mentors and understanding colleagues, these are the things our Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) can’t function without.

  1. A support system outside of work

“Personally, I couldn't function without my amazing husband, my son, and my family.”

Dr. Kimberley Willis, Director of Financial Aid at The College at Brockport State University of New York

“Having access to people, whether at the job or at home, that are caring and understanding and listen.”

Catherine M. Boscher-Murphy, Associate Director of Financial Aid at Montclair State University

  1. Partner offices on campus

“My partners and individual offices throughout campus — our financial aid and student employment office, our registrar's office, our admissions office, and partners across campus. Our offices are filled with dedicated, smart individuals who I'm really fortunate to partner with on a daily basis. We could not do our work alone and would be far less effective if we weren't able to collaborate on moving the needle on initiatives within the division of enrollment.”

Gena Boling, FAAC®, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment at Cornell University

  1. Self-care routines

“I would definitely say meditation. Every morning, I wake up, I go through my prayers and meditation, reading my affirmations each morning. That's something that I value and that I truly appreciate each morning.”

Jacquelyn LeSueur, Associate Director of Financial Aid at Mississippi State University

“Time alone in nature is particularly rejuvenating. Oregon is a great place to do that, because we have everything — beaches, mountains, forests, and deserts.”

Ryan West, FAAC®, Executive Dean of Student Services at Chemeketa Community College

 “I love to cook. I love to try out new recipes. That's something that I do and I find that relaxing. So I would say my kitchen and just cooking in general. I like entertaining friends and cooking Jamaican foods for them.”

Joan Bailey, Director of Financial Aid at University of South Florida Health Office of Financial Aid

  1. NASFAA tools & resources

“On a professional level, the one thing that I can't live without is NASFAA's Today's News. It serves as my morning cup of coffee, and I'm not even a coffee drinker. It helps to shape my day and keeps me informed immediately of all important aspects of financial aid.”

Sharon Oliver, FAAC®, Director of Scholarships and Student Aid at North Carolina Central University

“I could not function without NASFAAs tools and resources, their webinars. I even listened to ‘Off the Cuff’ this morning, and most importantly, AskRegs. Whenever we run into a snag, we jump right over to AskRegs.”

Dr. Kimberley Willis, Director of Financial Aid at The College at Brockport State University of New York

  1. The little things

“I couldn't function without British mystery shows. I know it's weird. I've never been to Great Britain so it's not like some connection that I have. I just think that people in that area of the world have a sense of humor that is different, and that I understand. “Midsomer Murders” is probably my favorite show.”

Melet Leafgreen, FAAC®, Director, Student Financial Aid at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

“Besides my morning Diet Coke — which anybody that knows me would probably laugh and say, ‘Of course it's Diet Coke!’ — the other big one is Sharpies. I use Sharpies every day to create my list. I take written meeting notes with my Sharpies. The colors help me remember topics and things. And sometimes you can even tell my mood by the color Sharpie I use to start my day.”

Heather Boutell, FAAC®, Director of Financial Aid at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

  1. Colleagues

“The people who work in our financial aid office. I am so fortunate to work with the best financial aid team. They work so hard and have the best ideas. I couldn’t get through the day without my colleagues Emily Osborn and Mary Stonis. Our University Director Phil Asbury’s guidance and encouragement really help keep us on task.”

Brian Drabik, FAAC®, Director of Financial Aid Operations at Northwestern University

“On a professional level, it would be that I can't live without the engagement of my colleagues.”

Kathy Bialk, FAAC®, Executive Director of Student Financial Aid & Scholarships at University of Kentucky 

  1. Favorite foods

“I was just in a meeting the other day where we introduced ourselves to the state financial aid conference planning committee for our state association. We did introductions and we shared what food we couldn't live without, so that’s what I am thinking about, I shared that I didn't know that I could live without pasta. I’m Italian, my grandmother and her family came over from Italy and landed in Ellis Island in 1914. So I've got that Italian heritage and the love for pasta as part of that.”

Charles R. Mayfield Jr., FAAC®, Director of Financial Assistance at Northwest Missouri State University

“In life in general, I'd say chocolate. Financial aid specifically, perhaps still chocolate.”

Ryan West, FAAC®, Executive Dean of Student Services at Chemeketa Community College

  1. Mentors

“I am also so lucky to have mentors that help me like Carolyn Lindley, Dan Mann, and Craig Slaughter.”

Brian Drabik, FAAC®, Director of Financial Aid Operations at Northwestern University

“I couldn't function without our students, my team and supervisor as well as my most amazing mentor Daniel Barkowitz, who needs no introduction to financial aid. He's known all over. He's like family to me.”

Dr. Kimberley Willis, Director of Financial Aid at The College at Brockport State University of New York

  1. Technology

“I probably could not live without the Internet. I work from home and so, in a remote setting, the internet is the key to everything. I think we take it for granted that the Internet exists when the Internet was barely a thing 25 years ago.”

Patti Kohler, FAAC®, Vice President, Financial Aid at Western Governors University

“Personally, my bluetooth. In the midst of all of the work, sometimes I’ll be listening to classical music, it’ll just depend on what’s going on. Just having that earpiece in while I'm working on a report, or responding to emails, it just helps keep me calm and paced. So if I leave my bluetooth at home, it's just a horrible day.”

Sharmain Lazard-Talbert, Interim Assistant Director Enrollment Services at Southern University at Shreveport

  1. Purpose

“In my day-to-day life, I couldn't function if I didn't have a purpose. Just thinking back to what keeps me motivated from day to day is just knowing that I make a difference in something, no matter what I'm doing. I have to feel like I make a difference in that.”

Traci Armes, FAAC®, Deputy Director, Scholarships and Financial Aid at University of Texas at Austin

What are the things you can’t function without? Let us know in the comments below!


Publication Date: 3/14/2024

David S | 3/14/2024 2:18:55 PM

What gets me through every day is knowing that things can't possibly be so bad that when I walk down my driveway before breakfast to pick up my copy of the New York Times, there won't be an article about what a complete mess financial aid is on the front page.


Nancy F | 3/14/2024 1:54:51 PM

Definitely #6 - our colleagues. Don't know how we would get through this without one another!

Sarah B | 3/14/2024 1:3:50 PM

Caffeine, sense of humor, great colleagues, a sense of my "why", and did i mention a sense of humor?

Robin Q | 3/14/2024 12:26:10 PM

I have really enjoyed reading these comments. I totally agree that chocolate is a veggie. When work gets stressful, my go to is piece (or seven ;) of chocolate. At home, I try to be mindful of work/life balance and disconnect if possible. I love walking and spending time with my dog. I love Hershey's chocolate so much that I named my dog Hershey. He is a chocolate brown chiweenie and he's a good listener, lol!

Kimberly L | 3/14/2024 12:1:17 PM

I can't live without Google & chocolate.

Armand R | 3/14/2024 11:25:41 AM

My salvation through Jesus Christ. Sharing His gospel message. Remembering that we are here for a short time and in that time, we decide where we will spend eternity. It puts everything in perspective.

Alice B | 3/14/2024 11:19:24 AM

Thanks for the light-hearted post! It seems everyday there is some new update or issue, which makes it challenging to keep up! Our parents and students are also struggling, so keeping them updated has been, well, a LOT of conversations and emails! Just like Covid, we WILL figure it out, and make it through! :) I've been very thankful for our FAA community, where we can post questions, hear how others are facing the challenges, get advice, and just have a good laugh! Oh, and chocolate is a MUST!

Paula C | 3/14/2024 11:15:06 AM

I would add "Financial Aid Follies" to the list. It certainly provides some comic relief when we need it most and reminds us that we're not alone.

Diane P | 3/14/2024 11:6:14 AM

Definitely baking, love to share cookies and desserts with my staff and colleagues, even at meetings. This job would be impossible without the chance to share thoughts and ideas with other financial aid professionals. We are a very caring group that is willing not only to help the students but to help each other. My sincere thanks to my colleagues both locally and across the country who make my job a bit easier each day!

Amy C | 3/14/2024 11:6:12 AM

I love this! I couldn't survive without askregs and memes!

Susan B | 3/14/2024 10:58:47 AM

Thank you for this!! Colleagues (especially my peers from other schools) and chocolate. These are the things that keep me going.

Jessica A | 3/14/2024 10:47:17 AM


James H | 3/14/2024 10:14:16 AM

Great perspectives of everyday life. Thanks

Laura L | 3/14/2024 10:9:24 AM

In the midst of all the crazy lately, this was refreshing and a great reminder. Thank you NASFAA!

Andrew F | 3/14/2024 9:48:59 AM

We can't survive without GIFs... lately they all seem to be GIFs of burning trash bins but I'm not exactly sure why ;-)

Elizabeth N | 3/14/2024 9:20:54 AM

This was great! Something light-hearted in the midst of all this FAFSA drama. For me, I couldn't function without my cat. Nothing beats coming home after a long day to a pleasant meow and snuggle. And, of course, chocolate! (It is a vegetable because it comes from a bean.)

Lisa E | 3/14/2024 8:22:38 AM

Love this! This really brightened my day and lightened my load. I have been overwhelmed with all the financial aid changes this year. Being reminded that there is a whole group of people out there also sharing these changes and challenges, as well as the reminder that "tools" to help us, are all around us is comforting. And, may I add, I agree that chocolate always helps!

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