Best Practices & Learnings from Fife School District
We spoke with College and Career Specialist, Christiann Thomas, from Fife High School to learn about their current financial aid work. Please read below for strategies that could apply to your district's work:
- Leveraging data for individualized support: Merging and filtering student data allows counselors to connect with groups of students to provide translators, financial aid, types of post-secondary opportunities and supports that apply to them. It can help identify the appropriate students to reach out to with individualized support in late winter and spring. It also allows counselors to identify underrepresented populations. This often takes expertise beyond the requirements of the role, and many schools utilize their data or IT staff to assist. The three main data sources Christiann pulls from include College Bound, the WSAC portal, and the school system's student information system.
- Wide-ranging methods of in-person and virtual outreach: Evening workshops, Zoom workshops, workshops in classes, financial aid nights with pizza, and phone calls to families in multiple languages.
- Partnering with colleges: For College Bound students, Christiann partners with local post-secondary institutions to highlight specific types of colleges, tuition savings, and alternative higher education options.
Finally, some things are out of anyone's control. From her perspective, the overall mood in the fall of 2022 for seniors at Fife High School around financial aid was different from the fall 2021. Some of the school challenges associated with COVID caused panic for seniors coming back to in-person learning, which may have led to students approaching the financial aid application with a sense of urgency. She has observed that this year's seniors do not seem to display the same level of urgency.