From Work Study to the Real World

From Work Study to the Real World

by Alexandra Topham, UNH Manchester Alum

Friday, May 29, 2015


When I first brought my application for Work Study to the Financial Aid Office, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t even know what Work Study was to be honest. But about a week later, to my surprise, Sharon Eaton from the Financial Aid Office was calling to set up an interview for the Student Office Assistant position. My interview went okay. I was shy and, again, didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I knew nothing about financial aid or anything about working in an office. However, I had great customer service skills and Sharon hired me the next week.

I had so much to learn about the financial aid process. Sharon was beyond patient with me and showed me everything along the way. Next thing I knew I was solely responsible for scheduling social media and sending letters to students. I had never been given so much responsibility, but it felt great. I had never thought of myself as a great teacher, but then Kristen Beck came to work with us as the Work Study Coordinator and I began teaching her a lot about financial aid as well. I hated public speaking more than anything, but Sharon forced me out of my comfort zone and had me talk to students at many events. As time went on I became more confident in my abilities to communicate with parents and students about their financial aid and the process.

With the end of the semester creeping up on me, I began to think about what I was going to do after graduation. I truly had no clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was graduating with my Bachelor’s in Psychology, and I wasn’t too keen on working in mental health. As the semester’s end drew nearer I started to get sad when I thought about my Work Study position ending. And then it dawned on me: I love working in higher education.

I had always had good experiences at NHHEAF (New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation) in Concord. I had gone there to file my FAFSA, and they were so helpful. I decided to see if they were hiring, and after about a month of waiting and two interviews, I was hired as a Student Loan Counselor at Granite State Management & Resources (which is affiliated with NHHEAF)—making very good money after graduation. I was hired based on my experience and knowledge working in financial aid.

Looking back on it all now, this has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I cannot imagine what I would be doing with my life if I hadn’t turned in that Work Study application. Sharon and Kristen have taught me more about how to be a working professional, and just about life in general. What I’ve accomplished and the things I learned working at UNH have given me the ability to truly find myself.

Work Study is a great opportunity. I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who needs a little extra cash or wants to build up their resume. You’ll get more out of the experience than you’ll ever expect. Financial Aid will be hiring soon, so get those applications in!

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