The teachers, students, and staff at Central Academy in Ann Arbor were so excited to win Governor Whitmer’s 2019 FAFSA Challenge. My name is Mahassin Harp, and I am the only school counselor at Central Academy. It is an honor to write this blog for MCAN and to share what worked for my school. For the 2019- 2020 school year, I had roughly forty students that needed to complete their FAFSA. 

I knew that to get my students to complete their FAFSA, I had to make it a high priority for not only myself, but also for them.

I began by holding a group presentation with my seniors. The presentation was roughly 30 minutes long. After the presentation, I allowed my students to ask whatever remaining questions they had concerning the FAFSA process and how completing it benefitted them. Next, I met with students individually to help them complete their FAFSA. For the individual meetings with the students, I also invited the student’s parents to join us. I recognized that some parents were not comfortable with giving out particular information about themselves, and I did not want this to be the reason my students did not complete their FAFSA. I wanted to meet with the parents in person to further explain why the student needed this information and to ensure that both the student and parent portions of the FAFSA were completed.

Finally, I did not want them to hear from just me about the FAFSA — I wanted them to hear from someone who really knew their stuff. That is why I invited a representative from the Treasury Department to come in and give a FAFSA 101 presentation for the students. She went more in depth as to what the FAFSA entails, gave details about scholarships, and went over college grants. This is something that I try to do yearly, because I understand the significance of the students completing their FAFSA. All it takes is for me to make a phone call or write an email to schedule this member of the Treasury Department, and it gives my students an important perspective.

The FASFA Challenge is a good reminder that the FAFSA is very important. It can allow students to go to the school of their dreams by eliminating financial barriers. Considering that this is a big barrier for many students, having the FAFSA completed is definitely a step in making their career goals a reality. I appreciate that this competition creates a big push for getting students to complete their FASFA. It puts a lot of emphasis put on getting students to complete their FAFSA, which was not always the case. When I was filling out my FAFSA years ago, neither the level of assistance given to a student nor this level of importance put on the FASFA existed. Thankfully, students today have so many more opportunities when it comes to postsecondary options, and it all begins by filling out their FASFA.