How to Increase FAFSA Filings by Texting

by Rachel Bishop | August 21, 2019
How to Increase FAFSA Filings by Texting

No doubt, counselors are bombarded with questions from students and families alike during the senior year of high school. From college admission requirements to high school graduation requirements, the questions don’t stop. One particularly complex question that students and families often have is how to file the FAFSA. This question is even more prominent given that some states now require students to file a FAFSA to graduate from high school. While these questions are necessary, they can be stressful for counselors. They may scramble trying to find the secret of how to increase FAFSA filings.

How to increase FAFSA filings

Whether you are a high school counselor, a college access advisor, or an advisor on a college campus, texting can be a key component in your FAFSA filing strategy. From nudging students to file the FAFSA to nudging students to renew it, texting students as part of a FAFSA filing strategy has proven to be an efficient form of guidance. There are multiple ways to use texting to do this, too. Let's dive right into some texting tips.

Text Tip 1: Devise a timeline

We recommend devising a timeline that incorporates key dates at both the state and federal levels. For example, schedule a mass text on October 1 to all families to remind them that the FAFSA is now open. In addition, schedule texts around the deadlines for state scholarship and grant applications. Then, schedule an urgent text near the end of June to those families that still haven’t filed a FAFSA to let them know the deadline is looming.

Text Tip 2: Capture data to target students

If you think sending mass texts to families who may or may not have already met various deadlines seems outrageous, you’re not alone. That’s why the Signal Vine texting platform allows you to capture responses from your students. Then, staff can use these responses to filter students who don’t need to receive your message because they’ve already completed that step.

Take the below to file the FAFSA


The person who scheduled the message only sent it to students whose profiles showed that they hadn’t filed the FAFSA yet. From there, staff targeted students who hadn’t yet filed the FAFSA and sent them a follow-up reminder. Of course, each student received a personalized message with their name in it.

At this point, the system listens for a yes or no response, or their variations. In this case, Alexis replied with, “Yes I did!” which allowed the system to capture and record this response. Alexis will no longer be included in messages targeting students who haven’t filed the FAFSA.

But this exchange prompts Alexis to follow up with another financial aid related question. She asks about the deadline to file the State Grant. College staff realized as they set up their campaign that this was a frequently asked question that they were being asked over and over again. With this knowledge, they pre-programmed a response for the Virtual Advisor. Because the Virtual Advisor was “listening” to the conversation and recognized Alexis’ question, it automatically responded for staff. Although Alexis didn’t need a nudge to file her FAFSA, the nudge did prompt her to ask about the deadline for the State Grant, which the Virtual Advisor answered.

This is the partnership we talk about when we say that automation shouldn't replace your interaction with students. Rather, it should complement it, answering those mundane questions that are asked time and time again. Teamwork makes the (college) dream work.

Text Tip 3: Nudge students about deadlines when they are near

It’s great to text students months in advance about key financial aid deadlines. Certainly, some students will respond to the nudge and take action. However, this is not the case for many students who require a sense of urgency to act.

To accommodate this need, we recommend texting students again with a more urgent nudge within a week or so of a deadline. Noting just how close the deadline is will help students act immediately while it’s on their mind. And because 90 percent of text messages are read within 3 minutes of delivery, you can expect a spike in application numbers the closer you get to a deadline.

Here’s what one of those “urgent” text messages might look like:

Hey [first name], the deadline to file the FAFSA is only a week away! Don’t miss out on getting money for college. Visit to get started and text if you need help.

Text Tip 4: Check out other resources

We understand that a major barrier that students cite to pursuing postsecondary education is how to pay for it. We have a number of financial aid resources available on our website to help you help your students. Happy texting!

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