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October 2020
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Virtual College Fairs: How Do They Work and How Can You Best Prepare Your Students?



In a time of so much uncertainty, the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) has made the decision to cancel all fall 2020 in-person college fairs and pivot to virtual programming. As school counselors, this is not the traditional way to advise your students to get to know a college campus. In the past, you have encouraged students to attend in-person college fairs to speak with college representatives, pick up the beautiful view books, and collect the swag from schools that interest them or those that catch their eye while walking through the fair. So, how do you switch gears and prepare your students for a virtual experience, such as the NACAC National College Fairs?


First, familiarize yourself with how the fairs are set up. NACAC has specifically designed their platform for mobile devices, since approximately 70 percent of students will access these fairs through their phones. However, computers will work just fine too! Students will register and log in at virtualcollegefairs.org. Once at this site, students can:

  • view a real-time list of the colleges and universities who will be exhibiting at each fair;
  • see which live and interactive Zoom sessions each college exhibitor has scheduled (a simple click will add the college's session to their personal fair itinerary) and attend these sessions live from their home;
  • access each college's profile page which includes a photo of the college, a short description, links to Zoom sessions, links to recorded videos and materials, and a "Schedule a Meeting" option;
  • use the "Schedule a Meeting” option to see what meeting dates and times the college has made available in 30-minute increments (a simple click will add the meeting to the student's fair itinerary);
  • use a filter function to find sessions and videos based on criteria such as where the college is located, what programs are offered, tags, type of school (4-year, 2-year, public, private), school size, and other characteristics;
  • and receive text message reminders for the Zoom meetings and one-on-one meetings they have scheduled.

Next, promote the fair and encourage your students to participate. These fairs bring the opportunity to engage with more than 600 admissions representatives from colleges across the world right into the student’s home. For many of your students, this level of accessibility might make it easier for the family to attend a college fair this year. Check out NACAC's promotional kit for counselors, with everything from downloadable graphics to sample text, to help you get the word out to your students.


Finally, prepare your students for the fair. Although virtual, give your students the same advice you would if the fair was in-person. Students should think about the type of schools they might be interested in: city or suburb? large or small? public or private? close or far? Do they have my intended major? This will help to make a list of the schools attending the fair that they might want to “visit”. Also encourage your students to explore! Students will be exposed to colleges they might never have heard of before and they may just discover a new favorite (or two)!


Emphasize making connections. Just like they would at an in-person fair, students will have the opportunity to speak directly with admissions representatives to have all of their questions answered. Suggest students make a list of questions to ask the admissions representatives and encourage students to take notes during their sessions with the colleges, so they can refer to them later. Direct students to NACAC's college fair tips for further suggestions.


NACAC is not the only source for virtual college fairs. Here are a few other platforms to check out:


collegefairsonline.com

collegeweeklive.com (you can even host your own event through this link)


While virtual college fairs are an excellent resource for your students as they navigate college admissions during a pandemic, this is just one piece of their process. Keep encouraging your students to learn more about colleges through virtual college visits and campus tours, connecting with admissions representatives and faculty through email or zoom meetings, and following and connecting with the colleges on social media. This is a unique time in the world of college admissions, but there are so many resources for students and counselors. Reach out to colleagues, college professionals, and the counselors in the Center for College planning anytime with questions or concerns. We are all in this together!


 
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Trauma, Stress, Grief, and the College-Going Process


Covid-19 has truly impacted students of all types: the over-achievers, the shy students, students with disabilities, the at-risk students who struggle with academic engagement, the anxious students, and all the other personalities in between. All students have been through a traumatic academic event. Think about it ‑ until this point most students have encountered the same school environment and structure. They sat at desks or tables with their peers and their teacher stood in front of the room delivering the day’s lessons. Even if a student changed schools, the setup was the same. Students were able to find their niche and figure out their own way to navigate high school. Now that system has drastically changed and some students may be feeling like fish out of water or students without a “place”. There is no question that remote learning has impacted the way our students learn and perhaps even how they are evaluated. But how does remote learning impact our students’ mental health? What are some of the things school counselors should look for, especially when some of you cannot see your students as much as you typically would? How could this pandemic (or other traumatic events) influence your students’ academic future?


This year at the National American College Application Campaign (ACAC)* Conference one of the workshops focused on just that. Dr. Laura Owen from American University, and Dr. Kara Ieva, from Rowan University addressed how those working directly with students can help them to navigate trauma, stress, and grief. Supporting Students in Navigating Trauma, Grief, and Stress and the Impact on the College-Going Process is an incredible presentation that discusses how much this pandemic has affected students emotionally and academically. The title is a bit misleading; although there is attention to the college process, the workshop is truly applicable to any age group and is a very thoughtful and comprehensive look at stress, trauma, and what that looks like for different students. This webinar discusses students’ abilities to cope with difficult situations and some of the long-term effects and behaviors that can result. It also highlights how to interpret some behaviors that are triggered due to stress such as avoidance, over planning, lack of focus, defiance, and chandeliering.


Even if students have found the academic part of transitioning to online learning easy the lack of social interaction and loss of in person time with teachers, friends, clubs, organizations, and sports has deeply affected many of our students. The New York Times has an ongoing Current Events Conversation for which high school students are given a prompt to write in with their thoughts and opinions. Recently, students were asked how they have been coping with remote learning. Some students discussed the things they missed about being at school, while others focused on the challenges remote learning has posed, such as being easily distracted, difficulties in understanding their assignments, and unreliable internet. Another group of students shared they have found they enjoy learning at their own pace, setting their own schedules, and being free from the stressful environment they felt at school. Regardless of their situation, students have had to make adjustments, and change can be stressful.


At the end of the day, whether your school district has opted for an in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning platform, it is not the same. Change can be difficult and we are asking our students, who are already tasked with trying to figure out who they are and what they envision their future to be, to alter almost everything to which they have become accustomed. Take note of changing behaviors in students, especially those who are your overachieving and high-achieving students. Lacking access to the usual social outlets, classroom discussions (without being unmuted), and teacher check-ins, these students could start to feel limited by online learning and may begin to feel anxiety about their performance. Praise students who are flourishing such as your typically anxious-to-come-to-school kids; being home gives them a more comfortable environment and in turn could positively impact their academic growth. Even as we try to make masks and temperature checks a new norm, everything still feels a little upside down. Take the time to care for yourself, check in with your students, and reach out to colleagues for support during these crazy times.


*ACAC is a national effort to increase the number of first-generation college students and students from low-income families pursuing a college degree or other higher education credential. The primary purpose of this effort is to help high school seniors navigate the complex college application and admissions process and ensure they apply to at least one postsecondary institution. The effort occurs during the school day, with a focus on students who might not otherwise apply to college. The Center for College Planning coordinates New Hampshire’s “I Am College Bound” initiative which began in 2014 at six (6) public high schools with the “I Applied” campaign. Each year since 2014, additional public high schools have been added to the program. In 2020, high school seniors from fifty-four (54) New Hampshire public high schools will participate.


Since its inception, the program has taken on two additional components, “I Filed” and “I Decided”. The “I Am College Bound” series follows students from the beginning of their senior year of high school by first helping them complete their college applications, then encouraging them to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and finally by celebrating their postsecondary education or career decision.


 
 
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In May of 2020, Awato partnered with the New Hampshire Department of Education to provide a career pathways platform for every middle school and high school student in the state. Schools in New Hampshire are able to access this platform at no cost.


The streamlined platform addresses the objectives of SB 276 Career Readiness Drive to 65 Act, making it easy for students to assess their interests, map their career pathways, connect with local employers, and identify local educational opportunities that fit their personal goals. You can learn more at awato.org/nh.


In addition, Awato provides professional development to the state’s K-12 stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, and counselors. During the training, attendees receive:

  • access to their school’s platform and are guided through inviting other administrators and students;
  • knowledge on how to use the platform;
  • and best practices for the implementation of the platform in their school.

To register for an upcoming 90-minute training, please click here. We encourage you to share this invitation with your colleagues as well!


 
 

2021-2022 FAFSA Open Season!
Starting Oct 1st 2020


As so many things with the college process have been changed, altered, pushed back, or cancelled, it is nice that at least one piece to this puzzle is returning without change: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has opened for the 2021-2022 season on Oct 1st 2020!


Here are a few things for you, your students, and your families to keep in mind, as we move into the college and financial aid season:

  • Remind students that the FAFSA is an essential step in their application process (just as important as the admission application itself). This is the first step in unlocking financial aid for college, including federal loans, grants, and any other need-based aid.
  • Every family qualifies for aid. Every student that submits their FAFSA is awarded a Federal Direct Loan to help pay for college. Depending on a family’s financial situation, the student could also be eligible for a PELL Grant and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. According to a NerdWallet article in 2018, students missed out on 2.6 billion dollars in free college aid because families did not complete the FAFSA.
  • Parents and students will use their 2019 tax information to complete the form for this upcoming academic year. If their financial situation has changed since that time, colleges have a system to report ‘Special Circumstances’ so families can share what has happened and how it has impacted them.
  • Being selected for verification is okay. It is a step in the financial aid process that all colleges practice and is simply the financial aid office double checking information for accuracy. It does NOT mean the student or family did anything wrong. In fact, some colleges have a 100% verification process, meaning every student is asked to send in documentation to validate what was entered on the FAFSA.

The counselors in the Center for College planning are available to answer any questions you or your families might have and are actively scheduling virtual FAFSA filing appointments. Families can call 800-747-2382 x119 to make an appointment.


FAFSA Filing Contest COMING SOON! Stay tuned for our 2020-2021 FAFSA Frenzy contest meant to encourage your seniors to file their FAFSA. Schools can win money to spend on their senior class ‑ a senior breakfast, t-shirts, class gift ‑or a creative idea of your own!


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COVID-19 NCAA Recruiting Updates


COVID-19 cancelled the spring season for student-athletes across the country and now the fall athletic season is in question for many of our New Hampshire school districts. Will these cancelled or stunted seasons hurt our athletes’ chances of playing their sport at the college level? The NCAA has updated the recruiting guidelines for Division I and Division II athletics in response to the pandemic. In Division I, the suspension of in-person recruiting has been extended through September 30, 2020. Division II returned to their normal recruiting calendars as of September 1, 2020.


While the NCAA rules are clear regarding Division I and II recruits, there has been no formal announcement regarding Division III recruiting. What does this mean to a prospective Division III recruit? We spoke to two veteran Division III coaches, and they conveyed the most important thing a potential Division III recruit can do right now is to be proactive. Every Division III institution has different rules regarding recruiting: students can contact coaches, send film, and if they plan to attend an exposure clinic or camp, they should ask the directors for more information. Student athletes may want to consider asking if coaches will be at these exposure clinics or camps, or if it will be filmed, streamed live, or if highlight film will be made available.


If your school team is participating in athletics, potential recruits should let the coach at their schools of interest know whether they are allowed to attend games. Remind athletes to be respectful of their time - coaches don't want to drive two hours to a game, only to find out that they are not allowed to attend because of the school’s social-distancing rules. If your school is not allowing the public to attend, students should research which opponent’s schools are allowing the public to attend, and then let the coach know when they will be playing at that school.


Colleges have been advised to suspend official visits to campus, but a student athlete may want to ask if they are having virtual recruiting days/nights at the school. And of course, communication via phone and written correspondence (email, text, social media DMs, etc.) is a valid and acceptable way of reaching out. Now, more than ever, college coaches are using digital correspondence to communicate with and evaluate student athletes. It is crucial for student athletes to take control of the process and be proactive in building their recruiting profile and in contacting schools.


The NCAA continues to closely monitor COVID-19 and its impact on student athletes. Visit the NCAA COVID-19 Coronavirus page for a wealth of resources for athletes, coaches, athletic directors, counselors, and more.


 
 
Questions from the Road

Each year, the CCP counselors travel throughout the state of New Hampshire providing over 300 presentations in public, private, and charter high schools. This summer, the “Road” became virtual, but the families we work with still have great questions ‑ here is one we would like to share with you.


With so many families experiencing financial hardships in the form of furloughs, layoffs, family businesses on life support or closing altogether, we have heard the following question a lot...


“Our 2020 adjusted gross income (AGI) on our tax return is going to look very different from our 2019 AGI. So can I use 2020 tax numbers on FAFSA, since they will give a more accurate picture of our family’s ability to pay for college next year?”


The short answer is “No.” Unfortunately the FAFSA only allows for you to transfer over tax data from the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) for the prior-prior year (i.e. two years back). So for the high school class of 2021, they will file the 2021-2022 FAFSA, starting on or after October 1st, and use the tax information from the filing year of 2019.


The not so short answer is “No, not on the FAFSA, BUT you can share it with the college directly”. A family is required to fill out the FAFSA using only the information that the Department of Education wants them to provide. However, a college can absolutely use the 2020 tax return information to recalculate a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), should they choose to use their professional judgment to do so. This would allow for the family to be evaluated based on a more accurate representation of their current income situation and possibly open the student up to more federal or institutional financial aid.


So, what does a family need to do to have the college see their 2020 tax information?

  1. The student applies to the college of their choice and the family files the 2021-2022 FAFSA with 2019 tax information.
  2. Wait for the college to notify the student about acceptance.
  3. Once accepted, the family can reach out to the college’s financial aid office and ask for their “Special Circumstance” policy and procedure.
  4. Follow the college’s procedure and provide all accompanying documents the college requests.
  5. Receive final answer from the college as to how this new information may or may not have impacted the student’s federal or institutional financial aid award.

(Repeat these steps with each college to which the student has been accepted)


Advise your students to reach out to the financial aid office at the schools to which the student has applied with any questions.


 
 
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