The plan below offers: (1) strategies and resources for hosting a FAFSA Night at your school; and (2) additional ideas for encouraging FAFSA completion, many of which can be implemented even after FAFSA Night has taken place.
On FAFSA night, students and/or their parents would participate in a guided session that allows them to complete the FAFSA on-site. If possible, FAFSA Night should be facilitated by both school staff members and community volunteers, including a financial aid expert from a local university.
This plan should be considered as a set of guidelines, rather than a script to be followed precisely. You might consider modifying the sequence of events or using alternative resources. Even if you cannot implement all of the strategies we offer, any efforts you make could go a long way!
The plan is designed to support high school seniors graduating in Spring 2018 with FAFSA applications for their Freshman year of college (2018-19). Again, please modify as needed!
For an additional FAFSA Night plan to review, check out this great planning resource offered by the US Department of Education:Federal Student Aid - How to Host a Financial Aid Event in Your Community
Set the date
We suggest hosting a FAFSA Night early in the school year, shortly after the first day that FAFSA can be submitted (October 1). Students who submit their FAFSA early will have the best opportunity to correct any processing errors and meet the deadlines for all of the schools and scholarships to which they apply.
In this example, FAFSA Night will be held on Monday, October 9th, 2017.
We will assume that the first day of school is Monday, August 14th, 2017, in order to be consistent with the Clark County School District 2017-18 Calendar.
Set a target
Target an overall FAFSA completion rate for high school seniors. Your target completion rate should be ambitious yet attainable – certainly, higher than completion rates from previous years.
Review this great presentation by the Road Map Project (2015) to see targets that were set in: (1) Detroit (Slide 20); (2) Memphis (Slide 24); and Kentucky (Slide 28).
Prepare to Track Student Progress
Whether you use a spreadsheet or more sophisticated dashboard, keeping track of student progress will help you to focus on student demographics and follow up with individual students as needed. See additional advice from the Road Map Project (2015) on Slides 13, 22, and 24.
Create FAFSA Night section on school website
The website should contain the following information:
Answers to the frequently asked questions (below); see Financial Aid Toolkit offered by the US Department of Education (US DOE)
Create FAFSA Night section on your school Facebook profile
Be sure to target both students and adults in your communication.
Initial Tweet about FAFSA Night
Assemble student & parent contact info
Use available information on high school seniors to set up FAFSA Night e-mail listserv and list of recipients for text messaging. You could locate this info in your progress-tracking tool.
Ask your principal for time to discuss FAFSA Night during faculty meetings; recruit colleagues
If possible, be sure to recruit at least one bilingual volunteer who could communicate with students and families in their home language
Send invitation letter to community partners, including local businesses, non-profits, and financial aid offices at local universities
Sample invitation letter: Gear Up TN Planning Resources (See p. 10)
Send FAFSA Night letter home
Send letter via hardcopy and e-mail; consider using school newsletter if available
Mention in the letter:
Check out some sample parent letters offered by You Can Afford College. Some of these examples pertain specifically to FAFSA Night; others focus more generally on FAFSA-related topics.
Send introductory FAFSA Night text message to parents and students
Give brief classroom presentations on financial aid and FAFSA Night
FAFSA Night reminders and signage
Reminder e-mail and text message to: (1) Parents and (2) Students
Reminder e-mail to community volunteers
Post signs on FAFSA Night in school hallways (electronic and/or paper signs)
Sample signs and promotions:
Financial Aid Toolkit - Infographics
Financial Aid Toolkit - YouTube Videos
Financial Aid Toolkit - Other Resources
Financial Aid Toolkit - Poster Template
Gear Up TN Planning Resources ( p. 15)
Advertise FAFSA Night on school marquee
Sample marquee message: Gear Up TN Planning Resources ( p. 13)
Have faculty and student leaders promote FAFSA Night in the morning announcements
Final reminders and preparation
Make sure that all necessary equipment (e.g. computers) is available and in working condition
Host FAFSA Night!
Send thank you e-mails to parents, students, and community volunteers
Student Recognition & Rewards
Road Map Project (2015) discusses the following strategies for recognizing and rewarding students who complete the FAFSA:
Instagram Campaign – counselors verify student completed the FAFSA; students post hashtag to Instagram (used in Dallas Road Map Project (2015); Slide 14)
Raffle – conduct a raffle for students who complete the FAFSA; offer a prize for students whose names are randomly drawn (used in Detroit Road Map Project (2015); Slide 21)
Discount prom tickets for students who complete the FAFSA (used in Detroit Road Map Project (2015); Slide 21)
Offer a reward to the senior homeroom/advisory with the highest FAFSA completion rate (used in Detroit Road Map Project (2015); Slide 21)
After students complete the FAFSA, recruit them to serve as FAFSA mentors for other students; get students involved in peer-to-peer text messaging (used in Dallas Road Map Project (2015); Slide 14)
Establish a Student Ambassador Team to assist with leading promotions and events; for a Student Ambassador Toolkit, see You Can Afford College
Year-Round Info Sessions
Designate particular days of the week for students to discuss financial literacy with local volunteers or adults at school. For example: “Tuition Tuesdays” (used in Dallas Road Map Project (2015); Slide 14) or “Lunch and Learn” (used in Detroit Road Map Project (2015); Slide 20).
Ask community centers and faith-based organizations to get involved by distributing resources (used in Memphis Road Map Project (2015); Slide 26)
Make it mandatory
Extended text messaging campaign
Baltimore City Public Schools. (2016). FAFSA Toolkit: Resources for FAFSA Completion. Retrieved from:
Education Week Blogs. (2016). Using Texts to ‘Nudge’ Students on Financial Aid. Retrieved from:
Financial Aid Toolkit - US Department of Education (US DOE). (2017). How to Host a Financial Aid Event in your Community. Retrieved from:
See also: https://financialaidtoolkit.ed.gov/tk/
Gear Up TN. (2017). TN FAFSA Frenzy. Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Retrieved from:
Road Map Project. (2015). FAFSA Completion Best Practices and Planning. Retrieved from:
See also: http://www.roadmapproject.org/
US Department of Education (US DOE). (2017). 7 Ways to Promote FAFSA Completion at Your School. Retrieved from:
You Can Afford College. (2017). U Can Afford College. Retrieved from: