Short Title

Nudging Students Beyond the FAFSA


A growing body of research indicates that proactive outreach from high schools and college access organizations about college preparation tasks, and specifically focusing on completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), results in increased college enrollment. Comparatively less attention has been paid to the role of colleges and universities in this outreach and outreach relating to additional financial aid barriers that students face while applying to college, such as the CSS PROFILE form. In this article we investigated, through an inter-university collaboration, the effect of sending targeted, semi-personalized text messages to students during the college application process about important financial aid deadlines, making salient the specific forms required and prompting students to plan specific times to complete these tasks. The intervention increased CSS PROFILE filing by 3.1-4.3 percentage points, where the estimates and their significance varied depending on the comparison group. Impacts on student enrollment did not accompany these filing impacts. Results from our collaboration support the idea that colleges and universities have an important role to play in outreach to applicants relating to important financial aid tasks. The paper includes a discussion of the promises and challenges of this outreach with recommendations for practitioners.