Hosting a Student Aid Event
By hosting a student aid event at your school, you can make great strides in reducing any fears and anxieties that parents and students have about the student aid process.
Here are a few steps to get you started:
1. Secure a speaker.
You may choose to lead the presentation on your own, but many counselors find it hard to cover all topics in the student aid process. This is particularly true if families at your school have special circumstances or situations that require "expert" explanations.
Look for outside assistance from a local Financial Aid Office or from your state agency that handles state funding.
Speakers often get booked early, so don't put this task at the end of your "to-do" list.
2. Select a date and time.
This is easier said than done! Here are a few tips to reduce the common pain points:
- Schedule early. Pick a date before the student aid deadline in your state and before popular college application deadlines.
- Don't compete with sporting events or concerts. Parents will pick their child's event over a student aid event almost every time!
- Avoid holidays and weekends. Be safe and try not to schedule your event while families are preparing for holidays or focusing on time together.
Also schedule your event in the evening on a weekday. Avoid mornings and weekend times, when many families are not available.
3. Select a "rain" date.
Plan for bad weather. Student aid season usually means cold weather, icy roads, and snow storms. Have a plan in place in case your school is closed:
- Notify parents and families. Prepare cancellation announcements for television and radio and/or use "blast" messaging via email and phone.
- Notify your speaker. Make sure you have the speaker's cell phone number.
- Choose the "rain" date wisely. Leave enough time to notify families of the new date and time.
4. Choose a room.
Plan for a large group, since it can be hard to guess how many people will attend your event. Small rooms tend to get overcrowded, overheated, and stuffy.
Once you choose the room, make sure to do the following:
- Reserve the room.
- Make sure building staff know to keep the doors unlocked, the lights on, and the restrooms open.
- Provide chairs and tables. If tables are not available, recommend people bring something to write on if they want to take notes.
- Find out if your speaker needs a projector, a screen, and/or a laptop.
- Have a microphone on hand, especially if your event is taking place in a large space such as a cafeteria or auditorium.
Advertise as far in advance as possible. The more you advertise the event, the more likely people are to show!
Even if it is months away, promote the event on your school calendar, on your website, and in report cards and newsletters.
As the date nears (about 2–4 weeks in advance), place reminders in your local newspaper, post flyers throughout school, and feature the event in your morning announcements, on your telephone's voice messaging system, and even at sporting events.
6. Follow up on all last-minute items.
Follow up on all of your plans to make sure you haven't missed anything.
The week before the event—Reconfirm the event with your speaker. Recheck the room assignment. And remind your students!
The day of the event—Remind building staff to keep the doors unlocked, the lights on, and the restrooms open. Also check that all of the items needed for the room are available.
The night of the event—Arrive early that evening and hang signs directing attendees to the event location. Bring any relevant materials that families may need, including extra pens and paper. And start on time! Don't penalize those who were on time for your event by waiting an "extra" 10 minutes for latecomers.