How to start hosting free college-planning webinars at your school

The ratio of high school counselors to students averages 385 to 1 nationwide. If you’re a school counselor, that’s not news to you. But what if you could offer free webinars with valuable college planning advice to 80 or 100 families at a time?

Game changer!

 As a full-time employed counselor, you may be able to join an outreach team, like My College Planning Team (MCPT) and, using your established professional networks, help even more students and their families. This is a benefit not only to your students, families and school, but also to you.

By inviting them into your school, you make available webinars on different college planning topics, including financial preparations, how financial aid works, the importance of the FAFSA and how your child should get ready academically.

See current workshop offerings here.

These webinars are completely free of charge and free of obligation, so they’re available as community education, an important factor for school districts, principals and school directors. There are no “commercials.”

The webinars are created and presented by financial aid and academic experts. Counselors are usually advised to refer questions about financial aid to the colleges’ financial aid offices because we can’t be versed in all of the details about changes to the FAFSA, financial aid appeals and how to qualify for grants and scholarships. We all hope the FAFSA process will be smoother this year than it was last year, but there will likely continue to be bumps in the road.

Middle-income families probably get the most benefit from the webinars because they typically won’t qualify for Pell grants, nor are they usually able to freely fund their child’s education. In schools serving lower-income families, students may qualify for grants, but their parents may be unfamiliar with the FAFSA process. The information in the webinars is valuable to students and parents as early as eighth and ninth grade because the earlier they start planning for the FAFSA, the more prepared they’ll be, and it may improve their chances of receiving a financial aid package.

We want to make webinars available across the country and are looking to interest more high school counselors in our outreach team. “Outreach” doesn’t mean cold calling people you don’t know; it means reaching out to your established contacts to see if the webinars are of interest to them.

Counselors who want to present as part of the webinar are able to do so by joining the MCPT speaker team, which may open other doors and provide a bit of additional income.

Other opportunities include working with students and families as part of the student support team and, if you love to write, producing articles for publication on websites, in magazines and our blog.

If this sounds like an interesting opportunity, check with your principal or school director first to make sure they approve (my principal was all for it). And if you have questions, email us at workshops@collegeplanningteam.com.

Becky Martin is a high school educator in southeastern Minnesota and an advisor with www.mycollegeplanningteam.com . With almost 20 years of high school counseling experience, she has helped thousands of students and families navigate the college planning process from start to finish. Becky received her bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, her master’s degree in counseling and psychological services from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and her school counseling licensure credentials at Minnesota State University, Mankato.