According to an annual study conducted by UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, financial aid is a top concern among incoming freshman and their families. A few key results found by this survey include the following:
- 75.5% of students surveyed were accepted to their first-choice college but only 56.9% decided to enroll. Over 62% of the students who chose to
attend elsewhere said that they were offered a better financial aid package by the school that was ultimately chosen.
- 48.7% of students (surveyed in 2013) considered financial aid to be a “very important” factor in their college decision. This is up from 33.7% in 2004.
- Many first-generation college students rely heavily on their high schools and/or higher education institutions to help guide them through the financial aid process.
It’s not surprising that financial aid plays a significant role in the overall college decision-making process; however, it is important to note that as the concern over college expenses increases, so does the potential for losing out on new enrollments.
While it is certainly not feasible for universities to financially support every student who is accepted, it is possible for schools to create and promote information that touches on major financial aid options, providing guidance for students trying to navigate the financial aid process. Below are five ways to share important financial aid information through a school’s social media channels:
1. FAFSA on film (or YouTube)
Each year, many incoming freshman begin their path to college by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). With funding on the line, this task is especially intimidating for students (and parents) who are new to the financial aid process. Don’t just explain this process in writing. Show students what to do. Consider putting an educational online video on YouTube that walks students through the process of filling out a FAFSA form so they gain a clear idea of what to do or can follow along and fill out their own form.
2. Scholarships, grants and loans, oh my!
When you were eighteen years old did you know the differences between a scholarship, a grant and a loan? Providing general information about each type of financial aid can help students determine which options are right for them. And once a basic understanding has been reached, make sure that a list of scholarships (both internal and external), grant opportunities and loans is available to look through. Putting this list on a school’s main site is a start, but creating a Facebook app can help colleges reach their audience faster. Additionally, colleges can bring upcoming application deadlines to attention by posting about them, including links that send students to an app or a page on-site where they can apply if interested.
3. A penny saved on Pinterest is a penny earned
Finding financial assistance doesn’t need to be all forms and no fun; show students the lighter side of cutting back on the cost of college with some money-saving tips on Pinterest. Colleges that already have a Pinterest page can consider adding one or more of the following boards to the mix:
- DIY dorm room décor
- Free events on campus
- Inexpensive ways to have fun around town
- Simple meals that taste great
This is also a great way to get a college’s social community involved. Schools can ask current students to share their most creative money saving tips and post them for incoming freshman to see.
4. Tweet if you like financial aid!
According to the Pew Research Internet Project Twitter use among adults is on the rise, especially for those in the 18-29 age group. Colleges can combine this social trend with the growing concerns about tuition costs by creating a specific Twitter handle dedicated to fielding questions and posting information about financial aid. If a stand-alone handle is not possible, the creation and promotion of a financial aid hashtag may be a way to compromise. Students will know how to tag their questions or concerns while tweeting, and popular topics can be curated and turned into content for the main site or a blog post.
5. Tales (or blog posts) from a work study student
Many new students who qualify for work study programs are unsure about securing a job and then keeping up with school work after finding one. Insights from students who have been through similar situations can help ease anxiety over this financial aid option. Colleges with established blogs can ask current students participating in a work study program to post about their experiences – offering tips to incoming freshman and potentially answering any questions left in the comment sections. Additionally, the following topics could be discussed on a school’s blog and linked to from previous work study posts:
- How to write or update a resume
- Job interview tips
- Budgeting basics for college students
These are just a few ways that education social media can be used to inform new students about financial aid and begin to ease anxieties over college expenses. Which questions or concerns regarding financial aid are most prevalent among your higher-ed community of current and prospective students?
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