As you know, the past year has been a challenging one for many students, especially those from underrepresented populations. One symptom of these challenges is that FAFSA filing rates have been down significantly for the current cycle, which doesn't bode well for the diversity of next year's incoming classes.
As part of EAB’s work to address this problem, our Enrollment Services team has developed a broad public service campaign to remind students to file the FAFSA and make sure they get the financial support they are entitled to for college. Here’s a look at the results we’ve seen so far.
First FAFSA ads making an impact
Our first round of FAFSA ads debuted in late January, with a week-long national ad campaign on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. We targeted high school seniors across the U.S. with messages about the importance of submitting the FAFSA.
The creative strategy was simple and strong: bold, colorful typography and compelling images of individual students and small groups, driving students to fafsa.gov for more information. After joining forces with Cappex last year, we used the Cappex brand for these student-directed ads, like the one below.
Sample Facebook ad
The first ad wave garnered 5 million impressions, according to our performance tracking. In addition, our most recent Student Communication Preferences survey of 15,000+ college-bound high school students found that fully one-third of them recalled seeing these FAFSA ads. And of the students who saw them, 18% said they took action as a result (that's some impressive ad-recall data, especially because many weeks elapsed between the first round of ads and the survey!).
Even more exciting: the year-on-year gap in FAFSA filing rates narrowed meaningfully in the two-week period following the first round of ads. In those two weeks, the percentage of high school seniors who have filed the FAFSA increased by almost three percentage points (35.2 to 37.9%). Though we can't tell for sure what caused the surge in FAFSA filings, the timing of the inflection suggests that our ads played a part.
A second ad campaign to further close FAFSA filing gaps
Building on the success of the first round of FAFSA ads, we created a complimentary set of social media ads which ran in March. These ads generated an additional 4.5 million impressions across Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, and we are hopeful that the downstream effects will be as positive as those we saw in the first set of ads.
Sample Snapchat ad
These ads are just one piece of the important work encouraging and equipping students to file the FAFSA—and closing equity gaps. Our recent survey of high school seniors revealed that the percentage of low-income students who had yet to file but planned to was twice as high compared to higher-income students, at about 8%. And the percentage of first-generation students who had yet to complete the FAFSA was even higher, at close to 11%. It’s clear there’s still much work to be done.
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