By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Colleges and universities everywhere are currently flooding high school seniors and their families with FAFSA emails, letters, postcards, and text message reminders.
Despite all of that, as of about two weeks ago, the FAFSA completion rate for the Class of 2021 was down 15.5% year over year.
There are a handful of reasons for that decline including the fact that 47% percent of all high school seniors, and 56% of those from low-income families, have not started applying to college yet. Those numbers are from a joint survey of 31,000 seniors that Tudor Collegiate Strategies and Niche just completed.
Along with the application decline, so many of the messages around FAFSA completion are void of any real personalization. They’re full of admissions jargon, and they read like a press release to the masses.
If you’re looking for a better, more student-centered strategy, consider crafting a personalized email for applicants and admits that comes from their admissions counselor and contains the following:
- A subject line that stands out and creates curiosity like “Getting you more money for college,” “Really hoping you see this,” or “Super important college reminder”.
- Recognition that nobody likes filling out more forms and that the FAFSA is one of the hardest, most confusing part of the college search process.
- An explanation of what the FAFSA is, and why so many students and families not only complete it every year, but why it’s in their best interests to finish it now versus waiting until February or March. You could even add that millions of students who would have qualified for grants don’t file because they think they won’t get anything, and you don’t want them to possibly miss out on free money.
- Offer to do a 1-1 phone call or video chat with them to have a low pressure conversation about not only the FAFSA, but other financial aid and scholarships.
- If you’re looking for a call to action that tries to spur engagement, ask the student to let you know what their plan is with the FAFSA – have they talked about it as a family? Have they created an account and gotten their FSA ID yet? Do they need help? And if their family isn’t planning to do the FAFSA, tell them that’s okay, but you’d still like to know that.
Two final tips. First, consider sending a similar, separate personalized email (or letter) about the FAFSA to the parents/family. That should also come from the admissions counselor.
And, follow up your email a day or two later with a short, direct text message that alerts students to your email and encourages them to check it out.
If you’d like to talk more about this article, or if you’d like an outside set of eyes to look at your new FAFSA message, throw it in an email and send it my way. I’ll give you some quick, free feedback.
And if you’re interested in more articles like this with tips and strategies you can use right away, you can find them here in our Admissions BLOG.