Part of communicating about FAFSA completion means saying the right thing to the right audience in the right way – a way in which it will be heard. The following are some of the messages that can be challenging to communicate but are critical to
ensuring the highest FAFSA completion rate possible among your community's students:
Creating a College-Going Culture: It really does take a village to support students in the pursuit of their postsecondary dreams. Creating a college-going culture means expressing the belief that all students are "college material." This can
be done in subtle ways, like asking school staff to wear college gear and display college banners in the hallway. Or it can be overt, like communicating very clearly to student about the expectation that all students will complete a FAFSA
because everyone will be attending a postsecondary institution upon graduation from high school.
Why Complete the FAFSA: Simply put, completing the FAFSA will make college more affordable. Communicating that message should be done in conjunction with creating a college-going culture in a school or community.
Dispelling Myths: There are a lot of misconceptions about who sees the information entered into a FAFSA, and how that information is used. Some students and families are fearful about sharing personal information with the government; others
do not believe they will qualify for aid; others have a "self-reliant" attitude and do not want to accept free money; others don't understand that the Pell and other grants do not need to be paid back. It's important to understand your audience
when dispelling myths about the FAFSA so you can target and clear up the specific areas of misinformation.
Postsecondary Education as an Economic Imperative: This messaging is particularly effective with the business community that is concerned about the quality of their future workforce, and with parents who are receptive to the message about the
role a postsecondary degree will play in ensuring a better life for their children.
Crafting a message about how and why to complete the FAFSA is only half the battle. The message needs to fall on the right ears. There are many ways to get messages out to the intended audience:
FAFSA Completion Campaigns: A comprehensive FAFSA completion campaign gets the message out to the entire community in a coordinated way through media and multiple partners, with coordinated/targeted messages. Campaigns can also be on a smaller
scale, such as a districtwide FAFSA completion campaign.
Using Social and Traditional Media: It's important to take advantage of a variety of messaging vehicles. But it's even more important to use the right vehicle for the target audience. For example, texting, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are
more likely to reach students, whereas Facebook, radio, TV, and print media might be better suited for adults in the community.
Targeted Outreach: Targeted outreach means composing a message that will resonate with the specific audience you are trying to reach. For example, parents will be receptive to a different message than will students, teachers, etc. You also
might want to target specific subgroups within a population. For example, maybe you want to flag only the students who haven't completed the FAFSA. This will require that you send a specific message to specific recipients.
Peers and Near-Peers: Engaging students and parents to help craft and deliver messages to their peer group can be very effective. Information that comes from a trusted source and someone with similar characteristics will be received more positively
than messages that come from an unknown source.