Counselor Perspectives: Strategies for Boosting FAFSA Completion at Your School

By Keri Moorehead

To continue the momentum of the Detroit Drives Degrees “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge, we decided to highlight approaches that counselors have taken to get their students excited about completing the FAFSA. Cass Technical High School, located in Detroit, has been remarkably successful since the challenge began in October. Currently, out of the school’s 556 seniors, 310 students have completed FAFSA (56 percent completion).

Cass Tech counselor Monica Jones underscores the importance of this work: “Completing the FAFSA is one of the big steps into the world of college for students,” she said.

Jones shared the following strategies to encourage FAFSA completion:

  • Counselors should visit classrooms to discuss the college application process with students.
  • Encourage the senior class to visit a career center. Cass Tech’s career center provides assistance for students who need help with the college application process.
  • Host a “senior scholarship lock-in,” where students spend time completing the FAFSA, as well as receive more information on various scholarship opportunities.

Cass Tech is a school that also stresses the importance of parent involvement, as many of its current students have parents who are alumni of Cass Tech. The parents are just as involved as the students,” said Jones.

“We want students and family to all be on the same page.”

19 minutes away, University High School Academy (UHSA), located in Lathrup Village, has seen similar successes during the competition. According to UHSA Dean Marcia Williams, 77 percent of UHSA seniors have completed their FAFSA.

“We are pleased with 77 percent of our seniors completing the FAFSA,” said Williams. “Of course we are aiming for 100 percent but this is a great accomplishment this early on.”

Like Cass Tech, UHSA is strongly involved with the parents of the students.

“We arranged a meeting with senior student families prior to the FAFSA window opening,” said Williams. “Our main goal was to make sure that parents and students were well informed about the college application process and FAFSA.”

Williams has also implemented an email that is sent weekly urging students to take the next step for their future and complete the FAFSA and college applications.

“We understand that students and families are busy around this time of the year,” said Williams. “Sometimes a simple email reminder can be extremely helpful.”

Each school has also used different forms of social media to encourage students to complete their FAFSA. Student ambassadors at both Cass Tech and UHSA use the app GroupMe, a mobile group messaging app, to remind their classmates about the competition.

We invite you to pass along your tips for increasing FAFSA completion, which we can share in future newsletters, by writing mdevelyn@detroitchamber.com. Thank you and good luck to you all.