Supporting students around financial aid

Learn how InsideTrack Coaches are helping students understand and complete the FAFSA process

With the 2021-2022 FAFSA form now available, countless higher ed students across the country are applying, thinking about applying, or waiting on next steps in the financial aid process. For many of them – whether it’s their first FAFSA application or their fourth – the process is confusing, complex, and more than a little stressful. Luckily, guidance from seasoned InsideTrack Success Coaches can make all the difference. Coaches Taylor Jabour and Emilia Gilroy-Sander spoke with fellow success coach Erin Swenson about helping students with the FAFSA. Here are a few key takeaways.

Takeaway #1 — Ask, don’t assume

Many students have misconceptions about the FAFSA and the financial aid award process in general. This can result in confusion – or even a reluctance to apply. Coach Erin emphasizes that before making assumptions or pushing for a course of action, coaches should first find out what students know and what they don’t know. The best way to do this? Ask neutral, open-ended questions. Questions like “what is your familiarity with the FAFSA?” and “what is your tuition plan?” can prompt responses that reveal exactly how much the student understands and why they may feel they don’t need to apply for FAFSA. As Erin points out, the more you know about your student, the better you can meet them where they’re at and help them make the decision that’s best for them.

Takeaway #2 — Normalize, normalize, normalize

Fact: most students apply for FAFSA. And no wonder – it’s the one application that can connect them to all sorts of aid eligibility. But just because (nearly) everyone is applying doesn’t mean that the process is simple, easy or intuitive. Students can benefit greatly from hearing that they’re not alone in feeling confused and/or overwhelmed by the FAFSA, and this is the message Erin wants coaches to share. She also recommends encouraging students to reach out and ask questions throughout the process to get the help they need. Another way to normalize the FAFSA process is for coaches to readily acknowledge how stressful it can be, and build in helpful reminders for students to check email to keep the process moving.

Takeaway #3 — Don’t be the expert

“Stay in your lane.” This may be one of the most important pieces of advice from Coach Erin. Student success coaches are not the experts on FAFSA – and they shouldn’t try to be. Instead, coaches should partner with each school’s financial aid department to ensure that students are getting the right information, right from the start.

Insight from an insider

Want to learn even more about how coaching can help your students survive and thrive through the FAFSA process? Enjoy Coach Erin’s tips about increasing FAFSA awareness and reducing FAFSA stress in our engaging, informative video.

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