In Buffalo, helping students complete the FAFSA has become a community effort.

The district partners with the University at Buffalo’s GEAR UP program, which provides resources and assistance to families and schools to help them with the college admissions and financial aid process.

Buffalo is also somewhat unique because of its partnership with Say Yes Buffalo, a last offer tuition assistance program that provides scholarships to Buffalo students. Seniors must complete both the FAFSA and TAP application to qualify for assistance through Say Yes.

Schools track completions at a student level so that principals and counselors can follow up with families who have not submitted.

That’s a strategy that has helped many schools, including Leonardo Da Vinci High School, follow up with students and parents who have not yet submitted the forms. Da Vinci had an estimated 68 percent of its applications completed as of February 1, the highest rate in the region among schools where at least 40 percent of students are low-income.

“Da Vinci has a resourceful and knowledgeable counseling team who really follows the data and follows up with parents,” said Eric Rosser, Associate Superintendent for Student Support Services for the Buffalo Public Schools.

Most of Buffalo’s high schools also have college success centers, dedicated spaces where students can find resources and get help filling out their financial aid forms. Through the partnership with UB, graduate students volunteer their time to help students through the process.

“The value of having these college-going students participate in this is tremendous,” Rosser said. “College students, along with helping with FAFSA forms, can informally mentor our students by sharing their experience in transitioning from high school to college.”