Breaking Down Barriers…

By Kendyll Graham, College Adviser at East Bladen High School | November 3, 2016

While being a college adviser, one of the most common barriers I hear from students is the cost of going to college. This is why college advisers work hard to inform students and parents about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This year for the first time, the FAFSA opened on October 1st. This is great for two reasons:

  1. The tax information that will be used on the FAFSA is from 2015 (so the vast majority of parents will have already completed their taxes if they are going to file);
  2. This gives us, even more, time to ensure that all of the steps are completed in regard to receiving financial aid.

After submitting the FAFSA, some students are chosen for a process called verification in which they must supply additional documents to support what they have entered on the FAFSA. Last year, I assisted students with verification all the way into July because of late notifications, or sometimes the student just doesn’t know until it’s too late. So, since students can start the FAFSA earlier, I hope to help my students finish the process earlier so that they can successfully enroll and go on to college.

This change in the FAFSA start date has also allowed me to meet a lot of parents earlier in the school year and to include them in important conversations regarding their student’s future. Parental involvement during the financial aid process is very important because this may be the first time  they are sending one of their children off to college; thus, this process is new to them. We, as advisers are one of the only sources of information they have and so while we are teaching the students, we are teaching their parents as well.
Advisers use a variety of mediums  to get our students and parents involved and to give them the knowledge they need about the FAFSA. Those mediums are:

  1.  Parent Nights (in English and Spanish)
  2. One-on-one FAFSA appointments during school
  3. Money Mondays (after school drop-in FAFSA help)
  4. Financial aid presentations during school
  5. Social media postings, etc.

Because of all of the reasons stated previously, I hope that through all of our efforts, we  debunk the myth about college not being affordable and break down the financial barrier on the path to college.