Helping Students Find College Cash: Challenges and Successes
I am a first-year AdviseMI adviser at Hamady High School and advise students on their postsecondary planning and decisions. My school is currently in the midst of the College Cash Campaign, which focuses on helping students find money for college by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and completing scholarship applications. Because of the pandemic, the College Cash Campaign has been virtual, which certainly presents challenges, namely, increasing student participation and providing assistance.
To boost the number of students who sign up for FAFSA, I have held two, virtual, FAFSA education events for my school. Approximately 20 students and parents participated in the first event. The second event had fewer than that. While the events were not as successful as I had hoped, one method that has worked to increase student participation is meeting with seniors in a Google classroom. There, I stress the importance of completing FAFSA applications and explain the urgency in applying. This method has also been helpful because the Michigan Affordability Tracker (with FAFSA-completion data) was not yet live in November. Meeting with students is the best way to check in on their progress and assist them as needed, which has generated a few more completed FAFSA.
In another effort to help students, a group of advisers and I participated in a virtual meeting with our local college access network. In partnership with Mott Community College, we planned a financial aid event and are promoting it to students throughout the county. Additional steps to promote FAFSA completion have included sending out postcards to students reminding them to apply. We also have contacted all of the county's high school principals and counselors to keep them updated on school FAFSA-completion rates, which helps us better track the county-wide rate. Our goal is to increase family engagement in the FAFSA completion process, and help students file their application in the easiest way possible.
The College Cash Campaign is important because it will help my students to pursue their dream post-graduate experiences. Though life is currently very different due to the pandemic, my hope is that students from our school take advantage of all the support I can offer them and get the help they need to pursue and attain postsecondary education.