As high school counselors, you want the best for the children you interact with every day. Seeing them get into the college of their choice is a wonderful feeling–like all their hard work has been worth it. Sadly, many students feel like they can’t go to college due to a lack of finances.
You can help them with this by providing information regarding scholarships and financial aid. However, getting students and their families to file the FAFSA isn’t always easy, resulting in students losing out on the education they deserve. Here are five ways to help you get those forms completed and see your students off to college:
Aim for a High Completion Rate
FAFSA completion rates are lower than they’ve been for some time, resulting in fewer students receiving the financial aid they’re eligible for. Lack of funding is one of the top reasons for high school graduates failing to attend college or university, but most of the time, they’ll find that it is possible thanks to financial aid.
Aiming for a high FAFSA completion rate ensures that the students willing to go to college will get there, even if they believe they can’t afford it. Whether it’s due to misinformation or confusion regarding the form-filling process, counselors can help clear this up and get their students the financial aid they’ve worked so hard for in high school.
Host a Financial Aid Night
High school counselors are a great source of information when applying for financial aid, but they can only reach so many students and parents individually. In schools with large populations, the counselor often can’t take the time to properly inform every student about their financial aid choices in person.
Hosting a financial aid night, whether in person or virtual, can help you reach a wider audience and, in turn, result in more completed FAFSA’s. This helps the counselor communicate with all of the graduating students in one place while providing all the necessary information in a focused, uninterrupted session.
Use Visuals and Incentives
Using visuals is a proven way to get your audience’s attention, and in a way that simply explaining things doesn’t always measure up. Giving people the opportunity to see things in graphic or video form, for example, helps them put the pieces together in a way that’s easier to understand, letting the information sink in more thoroughly.
Incentives help when students aren’t sure if they want to file the FAFSA, whether due to a lack of understanding the forms or for a different reason. A gift card, for example, could motivate them to complete the forms where they weren’t interested without the offered incentive — creating the feeling of earning something rather than just doing more “work.”
Identify Your Homeless and Unaccompanied Youth Students
As if it wasn’t challenging enough to be a high school student, homeless or unaccompanied students face a whole different set of challenges. There are special resources for them and various forms of assistance to ensure that they maintain their education while their family is struggling.
The FAFSA process will differ slightly for them, and they need to be aware that there is additional help available for their unique situation. For example, homeless students don’t have to provide a home address (as long as they have a reliable place to receive mail) or submit parental income information. Helping them understand this can mean the difference between them attending college and not even trying, so identifying them is so important.
Use Parent Conferences to File the FAFSA
It’s not news that people lead busy lives; parents, teachers, and counselors all have multiple items on their to-do lists each day. This can make it challenging to find the time for dedicated meetings regarding the FAFSA process, as it’s just adding to the already full plate that most people are dealing with.
However, using parent-teacher conferences to file the FAFSA can be a great way to get more students the financial aid they deserve. As important as getting students into college is, so many parents don’t have the time to spare, making it difficult to get the forms filled out. Using the time they’re already at school is a great idea to ensure they’re informed and offer any assistance they might need to complete the FAFSA.
While filling out FAFSA’s isn’t exactly fun, the results are more than worth it: students that work hard getting into college to further their education. When families are confused or misinformed, it’s your job to help them — and using these five strategies will allow you to do just that.
You can find even more scholarships and financial aid advice with Scholar’s App — a scholarship application management software and service that makes it easier to get your students the financial assistance they deserve.