Financial Aid for College: High School Toolkit

Financial Aid for College: High School Toolkit

Extensive research shows that high schools can make a significant difference in helping college hopefuls who are low-income and first-generation college students complete the FAFSA and other state financial aid applications.

In this toolkit, you’ll find 8 evidence-based best practices your school can use to support all eligible seniors and their families to complete their FAFSA, TAP, NYS DREAM Act, and Excelsior Scholarship applications.

Let’s make sure no senior in New York misses out on a single dollar of the financial aid for which they qualify! Explore our resources for school leaders.

Download the full Toolkit as a PDF

8 Evidence-based best practices

Checklist for
schools

8 evidence-based practices to support all your seniors to complete their financial aid for college applications

Hold a financial aid for college completion night

Hold regular financial aid for college completion office hours

Dedicate class time to financial aid application completion

Send regular letters or emails to parents/families

Post updates in school newsletters, emails or newspapers

Send regular texts or robocalls to families

Post regularly on your school’s social media

Use data to track your school’s progress toward full FAFSA completion

Step One: Hold a financial aid for college completion night

Hold a school-wide financial aid for college completion night in partnership with a community-based organization that has trusted relationships with students and their families. At the event, students and families should have access to computers and internet, as well as counselors and others to help complete their FAFSA, TAP, NYS DREAM Act, and Excelsior Scholarship applications and respond to verification requests.

How-to guide

Financial aid completion night family communication templates in English

Financial aid completion night family communication templates in Spanish

Step Two: Hold regular financial aid for college completion office hours

Hold regular office hours at least once per month for students and families to receive in-person or virtual support from school counselors or community experts to complete their FAFSA, TAP, NYS DREAM Act, and Excelsior Scholarship applications and respond to verification requests.

How-to guide

Financial aid for college completion office hours family communication templates in English 

Financial aid for college completion office hours family communication templates in Spanish

Step Three: Dedicate class time to financial aid for college application completion

Set aside some class time each week during the spring semester for students to work on their financial aid applications (and other postsecondary planning) and respond to verification requests. 

How-to guide

Download sample lesson plans

Step Four: Send regular letters or emails to parents/families

Send monthly letters or emails to parents/families with reminders about the FAFSA, TAP, NYS DREAM Act, and Excelsior Scholarship applications as well as information about upcoming opportunities to get support to complete those materials and respond to verification requests.

Templates in English

Templates in Spanish

Step Five: Post updates in school newsletters, emails, and newspapers

Include regular updates in your school newsletter, emails and newspaper about the FAFSA, TAP, NYS DREAM Act, and Excelsior Scholarship applications as well as information about upcoming opportunities to get support to complete those materials and respond to verification requests.

Templates in English

Templates in Spanish

Step Six: Send regular texts and robocalls to families

Using your school or district’s text or robocall system, send out at least one update per month to families about financial aid completion and responses to verification requests, as well as to drive participation to your financial aid for college completion night and office hours.

Templates in English

Templates in Spanish

Step Seven: Post regularly on your school’s social media

Post regularly on your school’s social media accounts about the FAFSA, TAP, NYS DREAM Act, and Excelsior Scholarship applications as well as information about upcoming opportunities to complete those materials and respond to verification requests.

Templates in English

Templates in Spanish

Step Eight: Use data to track your school’s progress toward full FAFSA completion

Regularly check in on your school’s progress toward full FAFSA completion using our www.NYFAFSAChallenge.org website. You should also join the NYS FAFSA Completion Initiative data access program organized by the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation to get student-level completion data. This information should be used to track how well your school’s efforts are working and target resources to individual students and families who need support. 

How-to guide