The Florida FAFSA Challenge wraps up March 31, and Florida is still about 12,900 FAFSAs away from reaching the goal of improving FAFSA completion by 5% over last year. One way to boost your school’s FAFSA performance and — most importantly — help ensure your students get the financial help they need to afford college, is to help those who submitted a FAFSA with errors make the corrections they need to complete the form.
“Submitting” the FAFSA is Not the Same as “Completing” It
After over an hour working on the FAFSA, a student and their parent have finally reached the end of the form. They look over their responses, hit submit, and share a sigh of relief.
They’ve submitted the FAFSA! Now all they need to do is wait for their student aid report (SAR) to see how much financial aid they’ve qualified for. Right?
Well, not always.
Sometimes, students may submit a FAFSA that is either incomplete or contains errors. In most cases, the student is unaware that there are additional steps they must take to complete or correct their application.
In this year’s FAFSA cycle, more than 8,000 Florida students have submitted an incomplete or incorrect FAFSA. These students have already done most of the required work — they just need a little more guidance to get across the finish line.
Reaching Families with Extra Help
Completing the FAFSA can be a challenging process — one that even experienced education professionals struggle with when going through the process for their own children. Many families need extra support to complete the application.
Hardee High School’s principal, Michele Polk, explained how her team learned this firsthand when they hosted a series of parent nights at their school. To everyone’s surprise, both financial aid nights were packed. “We ran out of computers,” Polk recalled, “we had to check out Chromebooks for parents to use.” Some parents even attended both nights so they could get more help applying for financial aid.
Helping Students with Common FAFSA Mistakes
Earlier this year, FCAN shared insight on the Top FAFSA Mistakes Students Make based on data we received from the US Department of Education. These common mistakes can be a good starting point to help students identify their errors.
Finding Out Who Has a Completed FAFSA
Counselors and college access professionals often ask us whether there is a way to identify the names of students with incorrect or incomplete FAFSAs. Through the Florida Department of Education Office of Student Financial Assistance, several school districts enjoy a data sharing agreement with the state that allows them to access this information. Contact your school district to see if you have this information, or to express your interest in having access to data on which of your students completed the FAFSA.
Even without student-level data, however, there are creative ways to identify who has completed their FAFSA. For instance, some schools incentivize FAFSA completion by raffling off items like prom tickets or yearbooks to students who have completed the form. By having students show their student aid report to confirm their submission, you can ensure that they have fully completed the FAFSA without errors.
There is Still Time to Meet the Florida FAFSA Challenge
We are excited to report that, so far, 70 schools and 7 districts have met the FAFSA Challenge of increasing their FAFSA completion by 5%. An additional 130 schools and 15 counties have, to date, increased their FAFSA completion over last year.
Two weeks remain in the Florida FAFSA Challenge, so if your school hasn’t met the FAFSA challenge yet, there is still time! Check out the Florida FAFSA Challenge Dashboard to see where you stand.