Peer Leaders have been working tirelessly this fall to boost college application rates at their high schools – but they know there is more to college attainment than just an acceptance letter. They want to make sure their peers have an affordable path to a postsecondary degree.
As the cost of college continues to increase, students from low-income communities depend more than ever on financial aid and scholarships to fund their education. Yet according to The New York Times, schools in lower-income communities have lower FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) completion rates than higher-income schools. The result is that $3.7 billion in Pell Grants went unclaimed by the high school class of 2021. Peer Leaders aim to close this gap by giving students and their parents the resources, support, and encouragement they need to complete the complex FAFSA form and pursue all other available scholarship opportunities.
Check out these essential Financial Aid Campaign initiatives Peer Leaders have been leading so far this year:
Financial Aid Information Sessions
Info sessions are a great way for Peer Leaders to get the word out about financial aid applications. They introduce the different avenues for pursuing aid and the required documents and deadlines for those applications. At Rembrandt Secondary in Texas, the PeerForward team has stayed ahead of the curve, holding a Financial Aid Awareness meeting in mid-September to help their peers prepare to fill out the FAFSA starting on October 1st. The team also made sure to preview upcoming FAFSA support events and opportunities.
FSA ID Drives
A key first step to completing the FAFSA is FSA ID registration. At Oxon Hill High School in Maryland, Peer Leaders set up a table at lunch to assist students with their ID registration. The drive garnered 25 student FSA ID creations. The team at Suitland High School in Maryland went door to door among classrooms, providing one-on-one registration support to their classmates. They also held an FSA ID drive and managed to sign up 37 students in one day.
Once October hits and the FAFSA opens, the financial aid campaign kicks into high gear! Peer Leaders,
Advisors, and school counselors all work together to support seniors and their parents every step of the way to filing the FAFSA. At FAFSA Nights throughout the month, students sport PeerForward I Filed stickers and PeerForward teams celebrate their classmates’ accomplishments via social media with photo campaigns and videos
Beethoven Secondary in Texas has already achieved 100% FAFSA completion among their seniors, and Mozart Secondary has surpassed the 60% mark thanks to Peer Leaders’ FAFSA drive.
At Buckhorn High School in Kentucky, one of PeerForward’s newest partners, almost every senior attended the PeerForward FAFSA event in October.
Tower of Power
One of the highlights of PeerForward’s summer workshops is the Tower of Power activity, which teaches students the skills to advocate for financial aid and scholarships. Along the way, they use resourcefulness and teamwork to attempt to construct a tower as tall and sturdy as their future aid packages!
Some PeerForward teams have taken Tower of Power back to their schools, incorporating the interactive learning game into FAFSA events. Peer Leaders at Rembrandt Academy held their Tower of Power activity in early October, and at James Campbell High School in Hawaii, PeerForward staff assisted Advisors in holding a “TOP tour” to teach students the fundamentals of financial aid.
Over the next few months, Peer Leader teams will continue to provide indispensable support to students and parents as they navigate the financial aid application process.