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DC FAFSA Completion Initiative

DC FAFSA Completion Initiative

The DC FAFSA Completion Initiative is an exciting initiative that encourages a school-wide focus around the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion. The most commonly cited barrier to postsecondary education is college affordability. Along with being socially and academically ready, it is equally important that all students have access to the necessary funds to enroll in, persist through, and complete college. While FAFSA completion is only one step in the college-going process, it helps students unlock their access to federal loans and grants (including Pell), district-wide scholarships and grants, and often institutional and community based scholarships and grants.

The DC FAFSA Completion Initiative also encourages schools, and community-based organizations to set a FAFSA completion goal to increase the proportion of their high school seniors who complete the FAFSA by three percent from the prior year. The initiative runs from Nov. 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017, and is open to all public and public charter high schools in the District, and interested community-based organizations.

While many schools and community-based organizations in the District have already begun working hard to boost FAFSA completion rates, this initiative will recognize their achievements and support their efforts through the following:

FAFSA Portal

The FAFSA Portal will provide more readily available and accessible student-level FAFSA and DC TAG OneApp completion data to designated counselors. Designated counselors will be able to provide targeted outreach to their students using information in the portal to identify particular students in need of assistance. FAFSA completion benchmarks for your school or organization will be updated weekly for the application cycle; check back frequently to see how your numbers improve. The FAFSA web portal will open from Nov. 2, 2016 - June 30, 2017.

DC FAFSA Completion Toolkit

The DC FAFSA Completion Toolkit provides a one-stop shop for FAFSA resources and strategies to support your success-and ultimately, the success of your students.

DC FAFSA Completion Awards

OSSE will celebrate the progress and success of all DCPS and public charter schools, and community-based organizations that make significant gains in FAFSA completion by March 31, 2017 by identifying three of the most successful sites:

  • MVP (have the highest FAFSA completion rate through March 31, 2017)
  • Most Improved (improved their FAFSA completion rate the most compared to last year through March 31, 2017)
  • Biggest Boost (largest week-to-week improvement in FAFSAs completed)

Winners in each of these categories will win a trophy and bragging rights. OSSE will publicly celebrate your achievement and your commitment to ensuring that your high school seniors have the financial resources they need to afford a postsecondary education. OSSE will also congratulate your school or program in a press release, in social media, and on its website.

Additional Resources

Promoting the Importance of FAFSA

Office of Federal Student Aid YouTube
The US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid has a YouTube channel with a number of simple and engaging videos that can be shared with students and families. Be sure to use the most recent videos, as some information has changed.

Office of Federal Student Aid Twitter Page
The FAFSA Twitter page, maintained by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, provides timely reminders of relevant information and deadlines related to federal student aid programs. The site hosts live question and answer sessions during “#AskFAFSA Office Hour” to allow students, parents and others the chance to get FAFSA and financial aid questions answered from federal officials.

US Department of Education’s Homeroom Blog: Federal Student Aid
Homeroom is the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education and publishes timely information and resources relevant to FAFSA completion and federal student aid. Some examples of blog topics, which are great for including in newsletters or emails to parents, include: 5 Things to do After Filing Your FAFSA, Top 5 FAFSA FAQs, 7 Common Myths about Financial Aid, and 7 Common FAFSA Mistakes.

Federal Student Aid on Social Media
The Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid has a strong social media presence, which can be leveraged to promote the importance of FAFSA in your school and community. In addition to providing links to all of their social media channels, this page includes some tips on sharing these resources with students and families, such as sample tweets.

General FAFSA Information

FAFSA Demo Website
This FAFSA demonstration website allows you to walk through the FAFSA process as a student would. This is a great training tool for staff and volunteers who will be helping students and families with the FAFSA. You can access the demonstration site using eddemo as the user name and fafsatest as the password.

2017-18 FAFSA on the Web Preview Presentation [PPT]
This presentation, produced by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, provides a step-by-step preview of this year’s FAFSA on the Web site. It’s a great way for counselors, college access professionals, and others to familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of this year’s FAFSA application. The slides can also be used or modified to create your own FAFSA presentation.

English-Spanish Glossary
This extensive glossary can help financial aid professionals and others find the Spanish-language equivalents for common financial aid terms.

Trainings for Counselors & College Access Professionals

National College Access Network Training Resources
The National College Access Network (NCAN) provides e-learning resources to college access professionals, with select modules focusing on federal student aid programs, financial aid and FAFSA completion. The modules are self-paced, available year-round, and reflect evidence-based practices. While some of the modules are free, the two FAFSA-focused modules are $119 each.

National Training for Counselors and Mentors (NT4CM) Webinar
Archived webinar & slides
Additional training materials
Offered live Aug. 18, from 1:30-3 p.m. The National Training for Counselors and Mentors is a collaboration between a number of agencies to provide financial aid training to school counselors and mentors. The webinar is 90 minutes long, and covers Federal Student Aid programs, Scholarship searches and Financial Aid fraud.

2017-18 Counselors and Mentors Handbook on Federal Student Aid
Compiled by the US Department of Education, this handbook is another resource for those that will be assisting students and families complete the FASFA. It includes both information specifically on completing the FAFSA, as well as information on federal student aid more generally.

Mapping Your Future: FAFSA Training for Service Providers
Mapping Your Future offers a free FAFSA training to financial aid professionals and others helping students complete the FAFSA, as well as a webinar for students and parents. To register for one of these webinars, follow the link above. Past webinars are also available on-demand.

Working with Special Populations

College Board: Advising Undocumented Students
Geared towards education professionals, this page provides a brief introduction to the basics of advising undocumented students through the college admissions and financial aid process. While this is primarily intended for school counselors, it may also be helpful to share with any volunteers you have at a FAFSA completion event.

Student Aid Tips for Unique Student Populations
These handouts can be used as part of a training to prepare counselors and volunteers to provide assistance to students in unique situations, including wards of the court, foster youth, single parents and more.

US Department of Education: Financial Aid and Undocumented Students
This handout by the US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Aid provides answers to a number of frequently asked questions about undocumented students and financial aid. Not only is this a helpful resource for counselors and professionals, but it can also be shared with students.

US Department of Education: Financial Aid and Undocumented Students [PDF]
This handout by the US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Aid provides answers to a number of frequently asked questions about undocumented students and financial aid. Not only is this a helpful resource for counselors and professionals, but it can also be shared with students.