Financial aid offices keep track of dozens, even hundreds, of important dates. These range from application processing cycles, regulatory reporting deadlines, and software updates to campus visitation events, staff meetings, and even personnel vacation requests. So, a financial aid operations calendar gives institutions a real advantage. It empowers the financial aid office to plan for important dates, complete tasks on time, and manage workloads effectively.
Getting started is easier than you think. Often a “low-tech” approach is helpful. This could be a paper calendar or a whiteboard positioned in a high-visibility spot. Start with the academic calendar on your school’s website or in the catalog. Overlay that with information on your financial aid processing cycle, and other key information. When you’re ready to move it online, most email systems provide a shared calendar option. Also, web applications such as Calendly and Monday.com have free and low-cost subscription services.
Once you create a calendar, make it a living document, and revisit it frequently. Ask for feedback from everyone in the office, and perhaps from stakeholders in other departments. Share your operating calendar with other departments and request a copy of theirs. Include a calendar review in staff meetings at least once a month. An update-to-date calendar can reveal things that otherwise might be overlooked. Some tasks may not require much lead time. Others could need more. Are there large projects which hinge on many small tasks being completed? Will too many people be out of the office at a busy time of year?
Near the end of the year, do a calendar self-assessment. Did you miss any deadlines? Did a project need more time than was planned? Was too much time allotted for another? What you learn about this year makes next year’s calendar even more effective.
An operating calendar is a powerful tool for planning and achieving the financial aid office’s goals. It keeps projects on track and even helps to ensure the staff maintains a healthy work-life balance. Need help creating an operating calendar? FAS can help! Reach out today for a no-obligation consultation.