3 local high schools earn recognition for helping students with financial aid

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Three local high schools have been recognized for their increase in FAFSA completion.

The “Best Hustle Award” is awarded to high schools that have improved their early FAFSA completion by at least 10 percent.

“Early” FAFSA completion is within the period of Oct. 1- Dec. 1.

The award is presented by Alabama Possible; a statewide nonprofit organization that assists with education, collaboration and advocacy throughout Alabama.

Andalusia, Opp and Red Level High Schools all received the award.

For Red Level High School, a majority of the FAFSA completions were all done in one day dedicated to students futures.

“We have what we call a College Rally Day, we’ve had it for the past two years. This is a day we have guests at our school, a pep rally and seniors are given time after the celebration to complete their FAFSA in one of our computer labs,” Melissa Nall, school counselor said.

“This year we had Walt Merrell talk to our students, Randi Bozeman and Heather Owen assisting our seniors with their FAFSA process.”

After all of that was done, the seniors got to celebrate with cake.

“We even had one night where we had parents come to the school and Randi Bozeman came up to assist with filling out tax information for the FAFSA,” Nall said.

As for why this process is so important, Nall said it has plenty of advantages.

“Getting the FAFSA done quickly and out of the way will ensure that you get the money you need,” she said.

“It determines what your funding is and you have to have it before you can receive a scholarship.”

At Andalusia, there are one-on-one opportunities.

“We held individual conferences with each senior to discuss senior credits, the college application process, scholarships and the FAFSA,” Olivia Ennis, Andalusia High School’s counselor, said.

“We utilize the Remind 101 app to text seniors important college and scholarship information. Our career coach, Polly DuBose, created a College Ready Senior Workbook which contained step-by-step instructions about how to complete the FAFSA.”

The FAFSA is required to be eligible for any federal financial aid, Ennis said.

“Most state and institutional campuses require completion of the FAFSA before aid or scholarships to be considered,” she said.

Ennis says the advantage of completing the FAFSA early is to receive early consideration for scholarship opportunities.

“This year surrounding area counselors were told that if two students who are equal in all aspects applied for the same scholarship, the determining factor will be which student completed the application process first, which includes the FAFSA.”

To learn more about the FAFSA, go to https://fafsa.ed.gov/.