Financial aid is a complex topic that often prompts questions and concerns from families, yet that same complexity can leave counselors unprepared to have critical conversations about paying for college. But counselors don’t need to be experts on financial aid. They simply need to know where to point students and parents so they can access reliable, reputable information. Here are some tips to help your families understand the role of cost and affordability in a college search:
- Don’t shy away from the conversation – If you are comfortable speaking to families about financial aid, then families will be more inclined to ask seek your guidance. Start the conversation with students and families by asking what role cost will play in their college choice and by helping them understand the difference between price and cost. A college education is a significant investment, and financial help is a reality that many families face. For more information about financial aid and the resources available, check out the resources available from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Advisors.
- Don’t make assumptions – Many families are reluctant to share details about their financial circumstances. Have the conversation with every family and student regardless of what you “think” you know about the family.
- Bring in the experts – Schedule a financial aid information session in the fall/winter for your seniors and in the spring for your juniors. Invite students from other area high schools. Financial aid officers from local colleges and state aid agencies are generally happy to present to your families at no cost to your school.
- Scholarships – There are scholarships available for your students. Whether you create a newsletter or post the information on your blog, ensuring that the information is available to students and parents can make a difference in their experience. Start gathering scholarship opportunities for your students by visiting, http://studentaid.ed.gov/.
- Encourage FAFSA completion – Research shows that students who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are more likely to attend college than those who do not complete the form. Many states host FAFSA Day Events in February to help families complete the form.