Ah, summertime. The season of fun, sun, and finally catching up on all those little projects that get shoved to the side during the school year. Summer is the best time to take advantage of the comparative quiet and make improvements for a more effective financial aid office this fall. Here are just few easy things you can put into place now that can ensure your next semester gets off to a great start.
Tie up loose ends
Now is the time to wrap up the last elements of the spring semester and begin strategizing for the fall. Work with your bursar office teams to reconcile remaining balances and finalize financial aid awards for the next semester. If you have a call center, an outbound calling campaign and blast messaging can help you contact students before they get too caught up in summer jobs, vacation, and other seasonal commitments that could impact your ability to reach them.
Look to the future
Meet with your internal teams to conduct a post-mortem on the school year: what were some of the challenges you faced? What were your successes? How can you take this information and transform it into best practices for future semesters? It’s important to have these discussions earlier in the summer when the previous year’s events are still fresh on everyone’s mind.
Help your incoming class
Your incoming freshmen and transfer students are already nervous, so if you haven’t already, develop a list of paperwork they must submit before their first day to ease their anxiety. What will they need to have a smooth start to the year? Can you use this outreach to also answer any FAQs before they step on campus? Things like a list of financial aid forms and deadlines, housing requests forms, emergency contact information, and medical profiles can all get lost in the excitement of starting school, so having a clear reference guide can be a life-saver for harried students. Having this information also eases the strain on your staff in the long term, as it can reduce the number of questions you have to answer from your students.
Update your frequently asked questions
Students tend to ask the same questions, but they don’t always get the same answers. A frequently asked questions (FAQs) library can bring more consistency to the responses your busy staff gives to students and make for a more effective financial aid office overall. Summer is a great time to update your existing questions and think about new questions students might have as you close in on the fall semester. If you don’t already have a library, the slower pace of June and early July can lend you the time you need to develop that library and share with your team before your inbound call volume increases and students return to campus.
Consider a call center
With budgets tightening across the nation, many schools are realizing the ROI of a call center. Whether managed internally or outsourced to a third-party vendor, call centers can help alleviate your staff by having individuals dedicated to handling your inbound call volume and outbound messaging. The end of the year can be an excellent time to begin exploring this option, as you have brand-new data sets – your current inbound call volume, future school initiatives that may require a dedicated outreach team – that can guide the decision-making process.
When summertime hits, it’s natural to want to slow down after the hectic pace of the school year. And while it is important to use the summer to take a breath and reset, incorporating these few easy steps – wrapping up your work from the prior season, identifying your lessons learned, simplifying things for your incoming class, and researching the investment value of a call center – can go a long way to making sure your fall is much calmer.