Blog

Brianna’s Journey: From Campus to a Career in Higher Education

At Financial Aid Services (FAS) and Genesis Software, we are known for our industry expertise with decades worth of experience. But how did our experts first begin their journey in the world of Higher Education and Financial Aid?   

This month we are hearing from Brianna Gualco, who is a Student Eligibility Review Specialist here at FAS. You can read below to learn more about how her journey in Financial Aid, and at FAS, first began. 

_____________________________________________________________________ 

At the end of my high school career in 2009, I knew I was not ready for the next chapter of my education. I decided to take a semester off, which ended up resulting in taking an entire year off. Eventually, when I knew I was ready for college, I started out at my hometown community college. Not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do, I chose to study Psychology as my degree program. Despite my empathic nature, the subject didn’t resonate, leading me to switch gears to Business. 

Fast forward a few years, and I was ready to transfer to Plymouth State University (PSU). The moment I toured the institution, I fell in love with it. The small campus and intimate class setting captivated me, offering the personal touch I craved. In 2015, I graduated from PSU with my BS in Business Administration and Sales Certificate. I returned home, and my mother and I moved in with my grandmother to help take care of her. 

I worked as a sales representative at Massage Envy, but felt a purpose was missing in my life. It was September of 2016 when a friend of mine wanted to drive along the Kancamagus Highway to sight see the beautiful New Hampshire foliage. On our way home we stopped for gas, and it happened to be the exit of my alma mater, PSU! Looking up at the breathtaking campus sparked a feeling in my heart that I could not ignore. That was it! I suddenly knew I wanted to work in a college environment and be a part of all the growth that colleges offer to their students. 

I started my research on what types of careers are offered in higher education. Not having an opinion on specific departments, I looked at admissions, advising, and financial aid opportunities. In October of 2016, I interviewed with Rivier University (this was my first interview with an institution, and I had no idea what to expect).  

When the interview started, I sat in front of 5 individuals from the Business Office and Financial Aid Office. I learned that they were in the beginning stages of merging the two offices into, “Student Financial Services”. So, I was going to have to learn multiple processes, systems, and the entire financial aid language, (and we all know those acronyms are super easy to learn). After the interview, I felt great and hoped they would get back in touch with me. The day after the interview I was heading down to North Carolina to visit a friend for a week.  

Just as I fell in love with PSU, I fell just as much in love with North Carolina. I was able to enjoy the quirky, free-spirited Ashville, NC, all the way to the hustling and fantastic Charlotte, NC. I had forgotten about my interview with all the fun I was having! During the trip, my friend and I had jokingly talked about me moving from New Hampshire to North Carolina, but on the night before my departure, we had a more serious discussion. I decided that if I had not heard back from the job before leaving, it would be a sign that I should move. Well, that morning my answer appeared, and I was offered the job at Rivier University! 

November 2016 marked the beginning of my career in the higher education financial aid world. I assisted students with tuition planning, aiding in FAFSA applications, and even presented during Accepted Students Day (ASD)! When I volunteered to present at the ASD, I had no idea what it consisted of. I guess this was a good thing, because had I known that I would be speaking to future students’ parents during 3 separate sessions, I probably would not have volunteered in the first place! Those moments of bravery put me on the map at Rivier, and I am grateful for all the opportunities I received while working there. I found that engaging students in financial literacy would involve many creative tactics, including even resorting to candy incentives to encourage timely FAFSA submissions! I am still close with my past supervisor, and believe that without her rigorous training, I would not be half of the financial aid administrator I am today.  

Fast forward again to October of 2020, I felt ready to further my knowledge and experience with financial aid. I began searching for a new job opportunity that would fit my skillset. Seeking new horizons, I ventured into Financial Aid Services as a Student Eligibility Review Specialist on January 4, 2021, transitioning from credit-based to ‘clock-hour’ schools. This position has opened my world to the ‘clock-hour’ school. Coming from a credit-based institution, I had a lot of learning to do, but my new comrades at FAS were there every step of the way to help! I left my Rivier family and joined the FAS family, and I have been grateful every day since. 

2 Comments

  1. Sandi O’Connell

    April 9, 2024 at 7:42 pm

    Brianna joined us at FAS at critical time when we were building a new team of seasoned professionals in Financial Aid as our Student Eligibility team. We needed her empathy and patience and team building approach in addition to her wealth of knowledge in Financial Aid. I am so grateful Brianna came to us with an open mind willing to help where ever it was needed. She was our glue to make a successful new team. If that weren’t enough Brianna volunteered to help us on our culture building and has been an integral part of our culture team in so many important ways. Brianna is genuine and caring and uses these traits to make sure we are all connected and bonding in so many different ways. It means so much to all of us to have Brianna making sure we are remembering each other as a true family does. I am so grateful Brianna found FAS. Her expertise in financial aid and for her natural tendency to create connections have been valuable building blocks to our success. Thank you Brianna for all you do!

    Reply
    • Brianna

      April 11, 2024 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you, Sandi! I truly love being a part of the FAS Family.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's Talk ×

    Financial Aid Services

    Here to Streamline and Provide Support to your Institution's Financial Aid Department.

    Students and parents, contact your school’s financial aid office or click here to visit the FAFSA site

    Interested In:

    Are you currently using a 3rd Party Servicer?:

    Email Signup: