Academic Planning Basics for Counselors: What You Need to Know about Endorsements, Graduation Plans, College Credits and More

Posted by Thema Reed, Texas OnCourse on Jun 3, 2021 5:10:53 PM

One of the biggest hurdles middle school students face before entering ninth grade is planning their courses for high school. Once a student enters high school, they have the opportunity to revisit their course plans, explore work-based learning options, and take courses for college credit.

To graduate high school, Texas students are required to complete 22 credits as part of the Foundation High School Program. Students can customize their high school experience by completing additional requirements and graduating with an endorsement, the Distinguished Level of Achievement, and performance acknowledgments. It’s really important that students understand their options based on their future goals. For example, the Distinguished Level of Achievement is mandatory for students to be eligible for Texas’ Top Ten Percent program.

Texas students face a competitive and ever-evolving job market. Understanding their course options and putting together a strong graduation plan helps ensure that students will graduate from high school with the resources and knowledge they need to succeed in college or their chosen career. 

This article outlines the basics of academic planning for educators. For more in-depth information, including resources, handouts, and tips for implementing this information in the classroom, check out the Academic Planning badge in the Texas OnCourse Academy.

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Topics: Finances, Educators, High School, Financial Aid

Six Things to Avoid When Applying for Scholarships

Posted by Texas OnCourse on Mar 9, 2021 12:57:09 PM

High school students have so much on their plate. If they’re pursuing some form of higher education, their last years of high school are likely to be filled with exams, applications, essays and one big question: How am I going to pay for this?

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Topics: Finances, High School, Financial Aid, Scholarships

Scholarship Basics for Educators: What You Need to Know about QuestBridge, NMSQT and more

Posted by Thema Reed, Texas OnCourse on Jan 25, 2021 3:32:41 PM

Searching and applying for scholarships can take a lot of time for educators and students alike. And we get why – students are often both excited and overwhelmed by going to college and taking on the cost that comes with it. As an educator, it’s your job to help students navigate their remaining time in high school, finalize their postsecondary plans, and help minimize student debt. This blog will walk you through the basics of scholarships so you can be prepared to support your students through this exciting time.

Like students, scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, and there are more scholarships now than ever before! We'll go over all the things that educators need to know about scholarships, including links to additional articles, webinars, videos, and other resources. And don’t forget to refer to the ultimate source for all postsecondary planning information for professionals: the Texas OnCourse Academy.

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Topics: Educators, High School, Financial Aid, Scholarships

Financial Aid Basics for Counselors: What You Need to Know about the FAFSA, TASFA, and More

Posted by Thema Reed, Texas OnCourse on Oct 20, 2020 11:42:31 AM

Thinking about paying for college can seem like a daunting task for high school students and their families. After all, the average college cost has increased more than 25% in the last 10 years. Luckily, students have more financial aid opportunities now than ever before.

It’s important for high school counselors to understand the impacts of rising student debt. They should also note the different avenues available to pay for college and reduce student loans. Applications like the FAFSA, TASFA, and CSS Profile can seem overwhelming, but the benefit for eligible students can be huge.

In this guide, we'll include links to additional articles, webinars, videos, and other resources. And don’t forget to refer to the ultimate source for all postsecondary planning information for professionals: the Texas OnCourse Academy.

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Topics: Finances, Educators, High School, Financial Aid

COVID-19 Update: Scholarships

Posted by Rose Frezza, Texas OnCourse on Oct 14, 2020 4:32:53 PM

With National Scholarship Month just around the corner, we’ve started getting some questions about how COVID-19 will impact scholarships.

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Topics: College Planning, Coronavirus, High School, Financial Aid

How to Adjust Your FAFSA Strategy due to COVID-19

Posted by Leader Fellow Alum Holly Moore on Oct 13, 2020 4:06:47 PM

When we heard that Texas OnCourse leader fellow alum Holly Moore increased her campus’ FAFSA completion by a whopping 21% in 2017–2018, we had to learn more! We interviewed her about her process and what she did differently than the year before. Holly is now a college counselor at Uplift Grand Preparatory but made this incredible progress while she was at Grand Prairie ISD in 2017. There were approximately 2,400 students at her school, and she worked with approximately 720 seniors each year.

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Topics: Finances, Educators, Coronavirus, Financial Aid

COVID-19 Update: FAFSA Updates

Posted by Rose Frezza, Texas OnCourse on Oct 2, 2020 12:28:16 PM

Happy October! You know what the first day of October means: The FAFSA is officially open! Today, we have a couple of important FAFSA and financial aid updates to share with you.

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Topics: College Planning, Coronavirus, Financial Aid

Boosting FAFSA Completion with a Virtual Financial Aid Night

Posted by Rose Frezza, Texas OnCourse on Sep 29, 2020 12:57:48 PM

Normally this time of year, many high schools and districts would be hosting in-person financial aid nights to boost FAFSA completion. Because of social distancing guidelines, many of these sessions need to become virtual. Read on for tips on how to host one and what information to include.

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Topics: College Planning, Distance Counseling and Learning, Financial Aid

Updates to the Texas OnCourse Academy Modules

Posted by Texas OnCourse on Sep 16, 2020 4:38:32 PM

We have made some significant updates to modules in the Texas OnCourse Academy! The Academy is our premiere college and career planning resource for educators. 

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Topics: Applying to College, College Planning, Financial Aid, Texas OnCourse Academy

Navigating FAFSA Verification: Why and How to Verify Financial Aid

Posted by Leader Fellow Alum Holly Moore on Mar 26, 2019 4:35:00 PM

You sent emails and texts and held parent meetings before October 1st in hopes that your students would complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A successful financial aid night has come and gone, and you're impressed with the FAFSA completions at your high school. All is calm until a panicked student comes into your office and tells you they received an email saying they were selected for verification.

What is verification?

Verification is proof through documentation that the information provided on a student's FAFSA is correct. The federal government requires colleges and universities to verify or confirm the data reported by students and their parent(s) on the FAFSA.

Who is selected?

Typically, about one-third of students are selected for verification. However, some schools verify all students.

Why was a student selected for verification?

First, reassure the student that they didn’t do anything wrong. Verification selection can be random. It could also be that the FAFSA submitted was incomplete, used estimated information, or provided inconsistent data. The verification process is a federal requirement to ensure that eligible students receive all the aid that they qualify for and to prevent ineligible students from receiving aid.

How does a student know they were selected for verification?

On the top of the Student Aid Report (SAR), they will see the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If there is an asterisk (*) behind the EFC number, the FAFSA was selected for verification. Students selected for verification may also be notified directly from the college(s) they have applied to via mail, email, or the student’s portal. In addition, counselors and advisers can see which students have been selected for verification by logging into the ApplyTexas Counselor Suite and clicking on their high school’s FAFSA apps.

How can counselors and advisers help students navigate the verification process?

  1. Educate students and families about verification in advance. If families know what verification is and what to expect if they are selected, then the student is more likely to be successful at completing the verification process.
  2. Encourage all families to request a tax transcript from the IRS if they are unable to use the IRS data retrieval tool when completing the FAFSA. Offer to assist with ordering tax transcripts, if applicable, during financial aid workshops. This is one of the most common documents requested when a student is selected for verification.
  3. Make sure students check their email and log into their college portals so that they don’t miss any needed paperwork or deadlines. If ever in doubt, call the college’s financial aid office.

Verification can be a major barrier, especially for Pell-eligible studentsNCAN data shows that over 100,000 Pell-eligible students in 2016–2017 who were selected for verification never completed the process. Counselors can help keep students on course by tracking students selected for verification, ensuring that they submit documents, and scheduling meetings to review their financial aid award letters.

If you’re craving more FAFSA knowledge, check out our Financial Aid Basics blog.

And finally, counselors and advisers, we encourage you to check out all eight strategies to combat verification challenges in the Texas OnCourse Academy FAFSA module, pictured below and available for download:



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Topics: College Planning, Educators, High School, Financial Aid