Mrs McAllan, of Greenlaw, destroyed the first letter she got telling her that a nomination for her to be awarded a BEM had been successful.
“I thought it was a scam and a wind-up, so I chucked it in the fire,” she said.
“They phoned my work, but I was on holiday.
“We have lots of pranks in the office, so when my workmates passed on the message I thought they were having me on.”
To confirm that it was no joke a presentation ceremony was held at Scottish Borders Council’s Newtown headquarters, and lord-lieutenant Jeanna Swan gave Mrs McAllan her BEM for outstanding service to education in her role as admissions officer at Borders College’s Galashiels campus.
Mrs McAllan first attended the college as a mature student in 1991 and was named as office administration student of the year in 1992, leading to her being recommended for a full-time post.
As an admissions officer based in its student advice centre, she provides personal support and guidance to students, dealing directly with around 2,000 of them annually. To date, she has been responsible for recruiting and advising more than 38,000 students.
She also attends parents’ evenings and career events to provide advice and is the main point of contact for guidance teachers in the nine Borders secondary schools.
Her relationship with staff at secondary schools and Skills Development Scotland helps make the transition for students as seamless as possible and has a positive impact on student retention.
Mrs Swan said: “It was my absolute pleasure to present Mrs McAllan with her well-deserved British Empire Medal.
“Her commitment, dedication and hard work have been of immeasurable support to students and colleagues alike over the years, with curriculum staff known to rely heavily on her organisational skills and in-depth knowledge of the college programmes.
“She has also been proactive in ensuring a culture of respect within the college which continues to be of tremendous benefit to all who attend.
“It has been said that when Mrs McAllan retires, she will have to be replaced by more than one person due to the number of invaluable roles she fills, and I have no doubt that this will be the case.
“In the meantime, she is to be congratulated on her considerable achievement to date, and I wish her well as she continues to be a source of support and inspiration to all who come into contact with her.”
Mrs McAllan said: “I am truly humbled to have been awarded a BEM and see it as recognition for all those who work in a support role at Borders College.”
A college spokesperson added: “Fiona’s dedication to her job goes beyond what is expected of an admissions officer, and we all offer her our warmest congratulations.”