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, immigrants, and first-generation college students complete the FAFSA and other state financial aid applications.

In this toolkit, you’ll find 10 evidence-based best practices your school can use to support all eligible seniors and their families to complete their FAFSA, NYS Application for 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

10 Evidence-based best practices

Checklist for
schools

Process for completing financial aid for college applications

10 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

Post information about financial aid for college completion on your website

Send school staff to our free financial aid training

Step One: Hold a financial aid for college completion night

Hold a virtual or in-person school-wide financial aid for college completion night in partnership with a community-based organization (CBO) that has trusted relationships with students and their families. It may be particularly helpful to partner with a CBO that has expertise supporting students who are undocumented with college access. Trained school staff should be available to support students and families as they complete their FAFSA, NYS Application for TAP, and NYS DREAM Act 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, NYS Application for 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 homeroom or study halls for example – 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, NYS Application for 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, NYS Application for 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, NYS Application for 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

Step Nine: Add a section to your school website with information about financial aid for college completion

In a prominent place on your website, post information about the importance of financial aid for college completion, a list of the supports your school is offering to students, and links to resources that students and families can use to help them complete their applications.

Templates in English

Templates in Spanish

Step Ten: Ensure that your school counselor and at least 2-3 other school staff attend a training about how to support students to complete their financial aid for college applications

Schools that use the Financial Aid for College: High School Toolkit are invited to send school staff to our financial aid for college students support virtual training. We suggest each school sends at least 2-3 staff members.

Whether school staff have decades of experience with financial aid for college applications, or are just starting out, these trainings will help you support students and families navigate the process. Each training will walk you through the online forms, suggest tips and best practices for working with students and families, provide opportunities for you to practice responding to complex questions or scenarios, and highlight common pitfalls. Each training will be 3 hours total, 90 minutes each day. Staff should choose to attend either the October or November training, it is not necessary to attend both.

OCTOBER TRAINING
Lead by the Options Center, Goddard Riverside Community Center
Tuesday, October 20 from 10:00-11:30am ET and Wednesday, October 21 from 10:00-11:30am ET
This training will cover the basics of all things financial aid for college including FAFSA, NYS Application for TAP, and DREAM Act applications.
Deadline to sign up: Monday, October 19 at 6pm ET

NOVEMBER TRAINING
Lead by uAspire
Wednesday, November 18 from 2-3:30pm ET and Thursday, November 19 from 2-3:30pm ET
This training will cover the basics of all things financial aid for college including FAFSA, TAP, and DREAM Act applications with a specific focus on how to support students who are undocumented or who have parents who are undocumented navigate the financial aid process.
Deadline to sign up: Monday, November 16th at 6pm ET

Information about our January 2021 training will be released later this fall.