Happy October! Many of the state campaigns are in full swing and we anticipate our biggest national campaign to date! More than 8,000 high schools are expected to host college application events where school counselors, other school staff, and volunteers from the community will guide and celebrate an estimated 600,000 students who may not otherwise have applied.
We are so proud of the hard work and dedication ACAC State Coordinators exhibit day in and day out as they each plan and implement their state’s college application campaign. Together, we are setting higher expectations and providing opportunity for ALL students to apply to college and the support to ensure they do so successfully.
To kick off the college application season, we recently celebrated our third annual #WhyApply Day on September 20 and it was our biggest #WhyApply Day yet! We saw posts from governors, college presidents, counselors, current college students, and more – so many caring adults who want to inspire the Class of 2020 to pursue education beyond high school. Thank you to all who joined the celebration and shared the reasons you think students should apply to college. We also co-hosted a #WhyApply Twitter chat with Common App and Reach Higher discussing the barriers students face when applying to college. Overall, the #WhyApply social media campaign saw 2,862 tweets from 1,019 Twitter accounts giving us a total of 845,000 thousand impressions and potential impact of 13 million!
We were thrilled to see all of the participation across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you missed the big day, it’s not too late to join the celebration. Our goal is to inspire the hundreds of thousands of students across the country who are applying to college at ACAC events. Share your “Why apply to college” reason on social media and be sure to use the hashtag #WhyApply and tag ACAC. Students are also encouraged to share where they have applied by posting a picture on social media using the hashtag #IApplied.
Remember, students can’t go if they don’t apply. Let’s continue to break down the barriers preventing students from applying to college and open the doors to college opportunity.
American College Application Campaign state coordinators share their “why apply to college” reasons.
State Profile: Alabama
Alabama High Schools Compete for 100% Achievement
People are motivated by competition, which is why the Alabama College Application Campaign decided to encourage a little statewide competition to aim for 100 percent senior participation. The goal was to get more students excited and engaged in applying to college. Everyone loves to challenge themselves and push a bit further toward feeling a genuine sense of pride.
Since 2013, Alabama College Application Week has grown from nine high schools that assisted 1,173 seniors in submitting college applications, to 400 high schools statewide in 2018 assisting 45,000 seniors.
Exactly how did Alabama meet this critical goal? By celebrating and acknowledging every school that successfully achieved getting 100 percent of their high school seniors to participate in the initiative.
The idea was inspired by one high school in rural west Alabama. After the state campaign’s first year, Pickens County High School was excited to learn they had reached 100 percent of its senior class in applying to college. This west Alabama school had a reason to celebrate and was inspired to reach this same goal every year. The state campaign created a special certificate that year and highlighted the high school in the Alabama State Department of Education’s newsletter.
During year two, the state campaign decided to more deeply focus its efforts on encouraging schools to reach the 100 percent participation rate, with the hope that more schools would make this a top priority to achieve each year. And this truly has been a success!
Each year, more and more schools are achieving 100 percent student participation. The “prize” remains the same: a certificate of participation signed by Alabama State Department of Education officials, recognition in the ALSDE newsletter immediately following the state campaign, social media shout outs, and – most importantly – a year’s worth of bragging rights with rival schools.
“Regardless of a student’s postsecondary pathway – certificate, two-year degree, or four-year degree - it is important for 100 percent of each graduating class to have a plan for education beyond high school,” said Melissa Caperton, ACAC Director. “Alabama is ensuring this is the case by recognizing schools that have reached 100 percent participation by their senior class.”
Additionally, when a school is invited to join Alabama College Application Week as an official host site, a letter is sent to the school principal or superintendent and a list is included naming every high school that hit 100 percent the previous year. This has sparked schools and districts across the state to sign up and work harder to ensure their school reaches this goal.
“Schools notice if they are not listed,” said Dr. Willietta Ellis Conner, Alabama College Application Campaign state coordinator. “We’ve also seen improvements in data submissions. Our schools are committed to sharing their data and committed to ensuring that it is accurate to reach the 100 percent goal.”
In 2018, Alabama had 130 host sites reach 100 percent participation! This year, the Alabama College Application Week is scheduled for November 4-8, and more than 200 high schools have already committed to participate. Join ACAC in following the excitement and cheering on schools as they achieve 100 percent by following #ALGoes2College on social media.
Alabama College Application Campaign is sponsored by the Alabama State Department of Education, Career and Technical Education & Workforce Development with partnerships including Alabama Possible, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Alabama Community College System, and Alabama Counseling Association.
For sixth year in a row, Pickens County High School ensures 100 percent of seniors complete at least one college application.
Partner Profile: National College Access Network
Use These Resources to Boost FAFSA Completion in Your Community
Author: Kelly Mae Ross, Communications Manager, NCAN
This article previously appears on the NCAN blog and is used with permission.
Today, Oct. 1, marks the first day that counselors, college advisors, and other college access professionals can begin helping students and families navigate this tricky but extremely important form.
The biggest changes to the FAFSA this year are related to the new tax filing forms created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. These tax form changes resulted in a few FAFSA questions being deleted, added, or replaced. With the elimination of the 1040A/EZ forms, the new criteria question for auto-zero EFC or Simplified Needs Test formulas is now related to filing a Schedule 1. Applicants need to review the instructions for this question carefully prior to answering the question.
When it comes to verification, the items to be verified and documentation that can be used to confirm a student’s income information will remain the same as those for the 2019-20 cycle. Over the summer, the Department of Education published the official list of verification items and the acceptable documentation for the 2020-21 FAFSA cycle. As students file the FAFSA this fall, be sure to check in with the financial aid office at the institution(s) your students have applied to so that you fully understand the verification process and acceptable documentation. There are institutions that still require the actual tax transcript and/or the Verification of Non-Filing letter, and they will not accept the signed tax form or non-filing statement, except as a last resort.
[To learn more about what FAFSA verification is and how the process impacts students, check out our white paper: "FAFSA Verification: Good Government or Red Tape?"]
For the second year in a row, filers will be able to use the myStudentAid mobile app to complete the FAFSA on their smartphone. If students downloaded the app prior to Oct. 1, they will need to download an update in order to access the 2020-21 FAFSA (once the new form is available), according to an article from NerdWallet.
As you gear up for FAFSA season, here are some helpful resources available now to support your completion efforts: Read More