Feb 12, 2019

Help Your Students Glide Through the Complex Financial Aid Process

Writing about the financial aid system in one of his blog posts, Bill Gates reiterated one of his interactions with some students who described the system as “nerve-wracking” and “scary”. Consequently, Bill gates called for simplifying the entire process, starting with FAFSA – the application that carries around 180 questions about parents’ finances, personal information, legal address, etc.

Decidedly, your students might not be in for a smooth sail throughout the financial aid process but the process itself is not insurmountable. Moreover, amidst the steeply rising tuition – financial aid makes all the difference in the lifecycle of a student and is worth the effort.

Surprisingly, despite financial aid’s life-defining importance, a great number of students don’t apply for it and a large fraction of those who do, end up making silly mistakes which keep them from getting the aid. Listed below are some measures you can take to help your students get the grants, scholarships, and work-study funds they need to sail through college.

Encourage your students to fill the financial aid application:

A study found that the high school class of 2017 missed out on $2.3 billion worth of free college aid simply by not filling out the form. That is why it’s very important to encourage your students, whether prospective or returning, to apply for the aid. Encourage them to fill the online version of FAFSA that has inbuilt edit checks, IRS data retrieval tool that makes their application less liable to undergo verification. In case they are using the printed version ask them to proofread it for mistakes. Make sure they are mindful of the deadlines as some states have early deadlines, while some distribute the aid on first come first served basis.

Help them through the verification process:

According to the National College Access Network, in a typical year, 56 percent of students who are eligible for income-based federal Pell Grants get flagged for verification. On average, 1 out of 3 FAFSA applications are selected for verification every year.

The verification process can be the most difficult for your students who need the aid most. This group includes first-generation students, who don’t have prior family experience applying to college, as well as those from lower-income groups. Pay special attention to these students. Craft a proper strategy to guide them through the verification process or outsource financial aid services adept at crafting such campaigns.

Stay on the top of your communication game:

Communication is the key. Next comes a proper channel for information dissemination. Ensure that your students know about the deadlines, required documents, eligibility criteria, your institution-specific requirements. Publish everything with clear instructions on the financial aid section of your institution’s website. Additionally, you can encourage your students to attend the Federal Student Aid office’s #AskFAFSA Twitter session which is held on the last Wednesday of each month from 5 to 6 p.m. ET.

Brush up your advising skills for upcoming FAFSA season:

FAFSA season is around the corner. While it is not expected to incite a lot of excitement as the whole process is a laborious task, it is critical for your financial aid advisors to brush up their skills as your students are going to need help. Assisting them with the aid eligibility to reminding them to sign at the end of FAFSA, they will soon have a lot on their plate. If you need a hand, we are right here.

At BlackBeltHelp, our financial aid advisors can guide all your students proactively through the entire process – from help with eligibility, organizing required documents, calculating expected family contribution, verification to the final award. Moreover, we tailor our support to address your institution-specific challenges and ensure that your end-users enjoy the same customized service experience they have access to in the outside world.

Check out our AI-powered smart chat to ace this financial aid season effortlessly!