Lead with empathy: how to foster relationships amidst this year’s FAFSA delays

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What the FAFSA (Simplification Act)? 

More than 10 million students each year apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to help assist with the cost of a college education. This academic year, the US Department of Education passed the FAFSA Simplification Act in order to improve the overall experience for applicants and to provide equal access and opportunities to as many students as possible, especially those of low-income backgrounds. Although the Act streamlined the application process for college-bound students; it has done everything but simplify the enrollment process for US-based higher ed institutions, as most of you already know. 

The delayed rollout has resulted in a large subset of students (still) awaiting the amount of financial aid they are eligible for, and a 38% decrease in application submissions compared to preceding years. Historically a nerve-wracking time for high school students, this year’s college decision-making process is met with even more uncertainty than ever before. As students and institutions alike grapple with this year’s financial aid limbo; the need for student guidance has become all the more paramount.  

Though it may feel like higher ed is backed up against a wall, it does not mean that your school can’t be the silver lining of clarity that students and their families are seeking in this unprecedented time. Let's find solace in this unique financial aid limbo together, through a multi-platform approach focused on more opportunities to engage and guide prospective students through these murky waters.  

1. Expand SMS outreach to parents: As students grow more anxious in this unique waiting period, it’s undeniable that their parents or guardians (if not more) share this sentiment. Offer proactive support and build relationships via SMS to inform parents about the change. Just as some students may be confused with this year’s delays, it is likely that some parents are out of the loop, too.

2. Respond to inquiries and share important updates via SMS: Financial discussions are extremely personal. A one-on-one text message affords students and parents the comfort to ask their questions, privately. When the time (finally) comes, send a bulk SMS update once your institution has begun the assemblage of financial aid packages. If possible, be sure to also provide an ETA for when they are expected to receive their aid. Transparency isn’t just key, it wins.

3. Showcase institutional value by video: The cost of (and support for) a college education is often a deal breaker for a student’s enrollment. Student testimonies about their program or campus life in your video messages can leave a lasting and positive impact once prospective students receive their aid. Emphasizing what makes your college unique and the advantage of attaining a diploma from your school, are top of mind for students in the college decision making process. 

4. Consider 1-to-1 video campaigns: Not all students inquiring may be quick to engage over an SMS conversation. Consider a thoughtful and well timed 1:1 or 1:M video message campaign with a check-in from counselors offering useful resources or encouraging a way to chat. Proactive direction and support shows students you care about their success, and their overall well-being.    

5. Add FAFSA topics into your Chatbot’s knowledge base: Tailor your bots responses to address FAQs, application information, and updates to this year’s new FAFSA form. When applicable, consider using chatbot responses that redirect students to get in touch with counselors or faculty members. Learn more about Goodkind’s recently launched chatbot here.

Lead with empathy

To date, we’ve sent over 7 million videos through our platform, and if there’s one thing we’ve learnt, it’s the power of showing you care. Going the extra mile to provide guidance helps ease student nerves and anxieties as they decide on their college home. You can be the positive force for students and parents as they navigate this gray area by leading with empathy, and fostering relationships with compassion and transparency. In the digital world, there’s no better way to emanate a human touch other than through video; the showing your face kind.