PARK TWP. — A series of weekly workshops at West Ottawa High School is helping seniors prepare for college.
Advisors at the school are hosting FAFSA Friday events throughout February to help students with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Michigan’s priority deadline for the FAFSA is March 1.
College advisors Diana Robica and Kevin Bautista provide resources and guidance for students as they start their FAFSA applications.
“We have different resources we hand out,” Robica said. “We pass those on and tell them to go through and have them start their FAFSA. We help them start it and get familiar with the applications.”
Bautista said they started the workshops because students who complete the FAFSA are more likely to attend college and millions of dollars worth of grants and scholarships go unclaimed in Michigan.
“Last year alone in the state of Michigan, $89 million that was set aside for federal Pell Grant money went unused because students didn’t complete a FAFSA,” he said. “We want as many students to complete (the FAFSA) as possible. A lot of times, they think college isn’t affordable, but completing it lets them know what they’re eligible for federally and, once it gets sent to schools, they can find out if they’re eligible for additional scholarships or aid.”
Students at a workshop Feb. 18 said having advisors to assist them prepare for college has been a big help.
“They have a lot more knowledge than we do and it kind of streamlines the whole application process,” Steven Le said.
“The whole process of going through all these college applications and everything, it’s really helpful to have them to walk you through everything,” added Breyton Gibbs.
Last year just over 60 percent of WOHS seniors completed the FAFSA. Robica and Bautista said they are hoping to get that up to 70 or 75 percent this year.
According to the state’s FAFSA completion tracker, which was last updated Feb. 4, West Ottawa had a 37.83 percent completion rate among its seniors. That equated to 199 completed applications, which was up from 194 last year on Feb. 4.
The school falls in the middle of local completion rates as of the latest update.
The highest completion rate locally is Black River at 51.56 percent. There have been 33 applications completed so far, down from 37 last year.
Zeeland East is also over the halfway mark with 50.67 percent of the senior class. The school has had 113 students complete the FAFSA, up from 105 this time last year.
Saugatuck has the highest completion rate in Allegan County at 45.88 percent. There have been 39 SPS seniors who have completed the FAFSA, up from 26 at this time last year.
The next-highest completion rate is Zeeland West at 43.77 percent. There have been 116 completed FAFSAs at the school, up from 94 at this time last year.
So far 69 seniors at Hamilton have completed their applications, which is 36.7 percent of the senior class. This is down slightly from 71 applications at this time last year.
Holland is currently at a 33.33 percent completion rate with 89 completed FAFSAs. The school had 97 applications done at this time a year ago.
Fennville has a 28.32 percent completion rate with 32 finished applications. This is up four from this time a year ago.