October 14, 2021

Gear Up for FAFSA Season: This Year’s Seniors Need It More Than Ever

By: Bill DeBaun, National College Attainment Network

October 1 looms large on the calendar of every college access and success professional in the United States. No, it’s not the date where they set their reminders to break out their Halloween decorations, it’s the date when the FAFSA opens for students and their families to potentially claim their piece of federal (and sometimes state and institutional) financial aid.

All eyes will be on seniors from the class of 2022 as they navigate the milestones that will potentially lead them to college campuses next fall. We are following a FAFSA cycle where seniors from the class of 2021 completed nearly 5% fewer FAFSAs than the year before. Many advocates (myself included) project that there will be postsecondary enrollment declines for the second year running.

District and schools, and the myriad professionals that make them run, have their work cut out for them. There have never been more demands on counselors, teachers, district and school leaders, and the other caring adults that pave the way for students toward college and career readiness. The past 18-months have been devastatingly difficult, and the prospect of helping students complete the FAFSA, a notoriously not-fun form, may be daunting.

It doesn’t have to be. We’re here to help.

Specifically, we’ve got a whole FAFSA Resource Library that’s free to access and easy to peruse. It covers topics and contains resources like:

  • A FAFSA planning calendar
  • Info on laying the groundwork and engaging external partners
  • Completing the actual FAFSA form
  • Training and capacity building
  • Communication
  • Accessing and using data

Need more on how to put together an effective FAFSA completion campaign? We’ve got that, too.

By the way, NCAN’s Form Your Future FAFSA Tracker, which counts completions at the national, state, city, district, and school levels, will return for the fifth straight year.

But it’s not all FAFSA completion. There are other important milestones along the path to college. That’s why it’s also important to be aware of this new (free!) senior college seminar, with lesson plans that take 10-20 minutes on every aspect of college-going.

As the FAFSA completion cycle ramps up, NCAN, and our state- and local-level partners across the country, will be here to provide any support that you might need. October 1 is a monumental date this year, indeed this year more than ever, but practitioners are not facing it alone. We’re here to help and look forward to hearing from you.