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Implementing a Financial Aid Campaign

Financial Aid at a Glance

Pell Grants provide need-based grants to low-income undergraduates. These funds do not need to be repaid by the student unless they withdraw from or stop attending classes within an enrollment period. Grant amounts are dependent on the student’s expected family contribution. Filing the FAFSA is the only way to access Pell Grants.

State aid may be available to students who attend a college in their state of residence. Some examples of state aid in Michigan are the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP), the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, and the Michigan Tuition Grant. State aid typically requires the FAFSA and does not need to be repaid.

Institutional aid may be provided by public and private colleges and universities to help their students pay for tuition and fees. Institutional aid does not need to be repaid, and aid amounts can vary based on many factors such as school selectivity, institutional endowments, and individual need of students. Institutional aid typically requires a filed FAFSA.

Federal Work-Study Programs are offered by colleges to help some students pay for college by working part-time. Students may be employed by: the institution itself; a federal, state, or local public agency; a private nonprofit organization; or a private for-profit organization. Students must file the FAFSA as part of the Federal Work-Study application process and are required to show a certain amount of financial need to be eligible.

Federal Perkins Loans are for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need (however, not all colleges participate in this program. Check with individual schools if students believe they are eligible). These loans will need to be repaid. Funds for Perkins Loans are limited, so not everyone who applies will receive this type of aid – the earlier a student files their FAFSA (which is required to receive a Perkins Loan), the more likely they are to receive this type of aid. Perkins Loans are meant to provide aid when all other sources of financial aid have been exhausted.

Federal Direct Stafford Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) are available to undergraduate and graduate students attending college at least half-time. These loans will need to be repaid. To apply for a Federal Direct Loan, a student will need to file the FAFSA. All students with a valid FAFSA on file are eligible for unsubsidized student loans (within yearly and overall loan limits), no matter their family income. Subsidized loans require that students show a certain amount of financial need on the FAFSA in order to be eligible.

PLUS Loans are federal loans that parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay their student’s education expenses. These credit-based loans require the FAFSA and an application and will need to be repaid.

Scholarships are awarded based on varying criteria and do not need to be repaid. Filling out the FAFSA does not automatically act as a scholarship application, but many scholarships require an EFC calculated from the FAFSA in the application.

Example Activities

Publicly track progress toward your FAFSA goal somewhere highly visible in the school. Keep track of your increasing percentages or track your students individually.

Create a competition between groups of seniors to complete the highest percentage of FAFSA by a given deadline.


  1. Determine how to separate out the groups. You can either do a random drawing of names, make groups from a required class, or use homeroom groups. The more evenly balanced the group, the more likely students will feel like they have a chance of winning.
  2. Once you have your groups, keep track of who has completed the FAFSA. We recommend using well-placed bulletin boards. List the names of each person in the group and have a way to mark who has completed the FAFSA in each group so students can keep track.
  3. Determine how you want students to let you know they have completed the FAFSA. You can have them turn in the confirmation page (make sure they black out their SSN), and you can check via the name-by-name FAFSA lookups.
  4. Announce the groupings to all students and explain the rules, how to win, and what the prize will be (make sure this stays in the announcements too so students remember).
  5. Update the bulletin board continually, either daily or weekly so students can see their progress and know who is in the lead. The more exciting it is for them to have completed the FAFSA, the better.
  6. Announce the winning group and give the prize at the end of the campaign.

Treats and Giveaways

One college adviser’s strategy is, “If you complete you get a treat!”

Another counselor’s theme is, “FAFSA is sweet!”

Free giveaways



  1. Start to secure prizes. You should start this as early as possible so you can have a confirmed list of prizes before you start the campaign.
  1. Determine an end date for the raffle.
  2. Determine how students will notify you of completing the FAFSA.
  1. Advertise the raffle.
  1. Keep track of who has completed the FAFSA by the deadline.
  2. If possible, do the drawing in public or announce the winners publicly after the end of the campaign.

FAFSA Fridays

Set aside time during the school day each Friday (or another day of your choosing) throughout the campaign to help support students as they fill out the FAFSA online.

Financial Aid Presentations

Parent Information/FAFSA Nights

To remove barriers students sometimes face (work, after-school clubs and sports, babysitting, transportation issues), the majority of your FAFSA campaign should take place during the school day. However, parent information is essential to completing the FAFSA, so you might want to engage parents directly as well. Do this in the evening to try and avoid work conflicts.

Steps for hosting a FAFSA night:

  1. Contact financial aid experts from your local community college or university to determine their availability to come to assist with one or multiple FAFSA nights.
  2. After you determine their availability, set a date and get a computer lab for the event.
  3. Find other volunteers to assist with sign in, food, and general FAFSA help.
  4. Advertise the event to students and their parents a least a few weeks before the event, with an extra push a few days before the event.
    • Letters home, mass calls home, posters in the hallways, handouts at sporting events, and in person announcements are good options.
    • Don’t call it “FAFSA Night” – Many schools report considerably higher attendance when they call it “Paying for College” rather than “FAFSA Night”
  5. Order food for the event if you’re providing it.
  6. Prepare volunteers if they will be assisting with the FAFSA by having a quick volunteer orientation/meeting or sending out the information ahead of time.
  7. Provide handouts a week or so ahead of time to parents and students interested in attending outlining what information they should bring with them. Make sure to update them about PPY.
  8. Do a final push of announcements to encourage families to show up.