by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs
CCBP Graduate Assistant
High school seniors are one step closer to graduation, thanks to Vision Days’ inaugural Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Night held in the Math and Science Education Building at The University of Alabama on Oct. 27.
Hosted by Vision Days to support its anchor schools, the event provided high school students, families and staff an opportunity to come and go during a three-hour window that allowed for reliable Internet access and direct help from UA students and staff with completing the FAFSA.
The event was created to assist high school seniors with FAFSA completion, a requirement for high school graduation in Alabama, and to provide additional support beyond standard Vision Days programming.
Amanda Dockery and Khalilah Harris, advisors in the department of financial aid at UA, helped students and families complete the FAFSA during the event.
“I can see that she [Dr. Daniela Susnara] has a passion for getting the word out to students and their families about opportunities at the University, and so, specifically, we try to plug in and breakdown the FAFSA, take something that’s really complicated and complex and try to make it manageable for students and parents,” Dockery said.
That first step comes with helping students and their parents create a Federal Student Aid ID. After that, students can start filling out the application.
Lilly Ingram, a senior at Sipsey Valley High School, came by to complete her FAFSA after hearing about the event from her school’s counselor.
“I think what I get from it the most is learning the process and learning how to do everything correctly instead of just going in blindsided,” she said.
“Everybody has been very knowledgeable and helpful in showing us how to do it,” said Caleb Ingram, who found out about the event through his daughter’s [Lilly’s] school. “It makes it easy on the parents and the students, and I think it’s great for kids and for parents like us, especially people who are first-time parents and this is our first [kid to] go through college.”
UA undergraduates that are members of the Vision Days Legacy program were also available to answer any questions that attendees had about the FAFSA and college application process.
“I like coming out and helping students [at events like this],” said Malika Freeman, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and ambassador with the Vision Days Legacy program. “I also like the Vision Days portion, getting to talk to students. It’s really cool to see that part.”
By getting the word out, UA staff members, like Harris, hope these events will encourage more high school students to apply for funding.
“I think that getting the students out here and letting them know all the free funding that’s out here for them to get their education and obtain their degree is really important,” Harris said. “I feel like it’s kind of underrepresented, so by getting that word out there and letting everybody know that we’re here to help, here to walk them through the process is really helpful.”