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Navigating FAFSA Challenges: Tips for Effective Communication with Mixed-Status Families

By: ImmSchools   |   March 2024

Explore how ImmSchools empowers practitioners to skillfully navigate the FAFSA challenges faced by mixed-status students and families through effective communication strategies that foster alliance, support, and encouragement.

Mixed-Status students and families are feeling very overwhelmed and discouraged as they navigate the new FAFSA process. Unfortunately, the process for mixed-status families is not equitable. The current delay and complexity of additional steps show that the immigrant community is unfairly missed or not considered when these systematic changes take place.
Many parents feel guilty, believing they are responsible for causing their children to be delayed in a process that is quick and successful for others. Parents and students carry the burden of feeling shame due to their immigration status. As a practitioner you have the ability to make families feel seen, cared for, and empowered through your advice, knowledge, and support.
We know that the current delay and technical glitches are causing a significant amount of stress, anxiety and additional fear for students and families as the decision deadlines are fast approaching and the uncertainty of access to funds to cover tuition is a constant barrier to pursuing post-secondary access.
Recently, the Department of Education has committed to fix the FAFSA submission problems for students with a contributor (parent) without a Social Security number by the “first half of March”. Until then, students from mixed-status families can use a workaround to record a submission date to meet earlier deadlines for aid from institutions, scholarships, or state aid programs. The nine-step workaround process will result in a submitted incomplete FAFSA and will require the contributor(s) [parent(s)] without an SSN to return in the first half of March to correct and sign the online application.  In the meantime, there are ways in which you as a practitioner can show alliance, support, and encouragement through this process.

We urge you to be proactive when communicating with families, be transparent and prompt as new updates are available. Continue to encourage  families to remain hopeful and resilient as they navigate the FAFSA application process. You have the power to be their champion!

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ImmSchools is a nonprofit organization led by immigrants, dedicated to fostering safe and inclusive school environments for undocumented and mixed-status students and families. We collaborate with districts, schools, and community leaders across NYC, NJ, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Our mission involves delivering targeted interventions and professional development opportunities to educators, families, and students in support of the undocumented and immigrant community.