The U.S. Federal Student Aid program (FAFSA) will launch a new Oct. 1 start date and form schedule for students seeking financial help getting into college. In previous years, the FAFSA start-date was in March. The change is designed to give students more time to prepare for college, and to bring the aid program into the same timeline as college applications.
Research shows that those kids whose parents went to college are far more likely to apply for college than those whose parents did not go to college, regardless of grades.
For activists and professionals operating in higher education, this is a matter of concern. Applying for college and applying for aid is not a simple matter. Most kids need help. But with schools still reeling from budgetary cuts, there simply aren't enough in-school councillors to go around.
One project that's gaining traction is a videogame that teaches kids how to go through the process of applying for college. Played in realtime over the course of a week, Mission: Admission shows students how to meet scholarship deadlines, apply for aid, work on personal statements, request letters of recommendation and take extra curricular activities as well as apply to and enroll in the appropriate college.
The current game has been available in California since 2014, and was previously available as both a card game and a Facebook game. This year, the Department of Education is spending $3.2 million on a study into the game's effectiveness, with a view to a nationwide roll-out.
Mission: Admission was created by the Pullias Center for Higher Education which states in its mission a commitment to 'successful college outreach programs, financial aid and access for low- to moderate-income students of color and use of technology to supplement college counseling services.' The game was made in collaboration with USC’s Game Innovation Lab, which is best known for releases like Flow, Darfur is Dying and Chambara, as well as alumni like Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago, creators of Journey
The game makers say they have much work to do to make sure that students are aware of the game, and that they make use of its lessons. The problems they face include persuading schools to allow them to take up students' time and access to computers at school, which are often tightly controlled or hopelessly outdated.
Even so, the Pullias Center provided some anecdotal quotes from students who had played the game, and found it to be useful.
'I learned not to get scared in the future for college,' said a student attending a school near San Francisco. 'I learned what to expect in college, what the requirements for each college would be.'
'The people that are in my classes, they didn’t really talk about college that much,' said a student at a high school in Southern California. 'For me, I’m big on college. Now I'm getting into discussions with my friends about college. It's just so much more refreshing because they understand the stress and the struggle now [they've played the game].'