Navigating the 2024 FAFSA Delay Together

Jenna Briggs Feb 06, 2024 Jenna Briggs Senior Director, Client Success Persona The Innovative and Competitive Contender

It’s an understatement to say that the delay of FAFSA applicant data is a tough, unprecedented, and frustrating situation for prospective and current students, as well as the institutions that serve them. This is nothing new given all the challenges you’ve had to tackle in the last few years.

The good news: your pivot muscle is well-trained for this moment. We’re not here to tell you anything you don’t already know but to remind you that you already have the answers. This is our perspective on prioritizing and managing amidst the chaos.

1. Be Selective and Clear with Your Communications

In times of uncertainty, clear and effective communication becomes your most powerful tool. While those of us working in higher education are closely monitoring the situation, do not assume families are as well-informed about the delays and the status of FAFSA. Take this opportunity to educate and clarify, ensuring your messages are tailored to meet the specific needs of each audience/segment with the most critical information.

However, avoid bombarding students and parents with information; too much information can be counterproductive. Simplify your messages and consider leveraging personal communication channels, such as text messages from your admissions/financial aid team or directly from admission counselors, to keep the lines of communication open and accessible.

“Remember that you are one of many different institutions from which your prospective students may be hearing. These students and their families are managing different messages, different deadlines, and different processes. A clear and confident message sent to both students and parents about what to expect in the coming months that identifies resources available to them in the meantime is the best option right now." Mike Keane, SVP, Modeling and Client Strategy

Additionally, be careful not to over-promise delivery timelines for financial aid packages. It’s better to set realistic expectations than to have to backtrack on earlier promises.

2. Use Your Website’s Homepage to Provide Easy-to-Access Information

Utilize a notification banner to immediately inform visitors about the FAFSA delay and how your institution is responding. Place crucial content on the front page of your website to ensure that information is as accessible as possible. Assure families your website will be updated regularly with accurate and timely information, and consider listing the dates of the latest updates to allow visitors to track changes in real-time.

3. Consider Adjusting Your Communication Strategies

Because of the FAFSA delay, many students may be making enrollment decisions later in the cycle than normal. Think about the potential effects on your communication flow, admissions processes, and enrollment/orientation/registration processes. What are the potential downstream impacts on orientation, advising, and course availability that you could begin to prepare for now?

4. Offer Extended Office Hours and Support

Understanding and empathy go a long way. If staffing allows, pick an evening or two to extend your office hours to field calls and questions from concerned students and parents. Even if you can’t provide all the answers, a listening ear and support can be incredibly reassuring.

Empower and encourage prospective students and their families to keep moving forward with what they can control, such as exploring community-based or organizational scholarships, attending your financial aid information sessions, and participating in any upcoming yield, academic, athletic, or cultural events you are hosting.

5. Current Students Will Be Impacted Too

Remember, current students are also affected by this delay, and they should not be overlooked in your outreach efforts. Hold information sessions, either place-based or virtual, to answer any questions and ease concerns to the best of your ability. Utilize existing channels, such as a newsletter or portal for current parents, to provide updates and clear calls to action. Again, we may not have all the answers, but we can help combat misinformation and reassure where possible.

 

The delay in the FAFSA release is undoubtedly a frustrating hurdle, but it’s one that we can overcome with clear communication, empathy, and proactivity. Remember, you’re not alone in this!

Our team is here to stand by you, offering any assistance or resources you may need to navigate this challenge together. Reach out for support.

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