Using Data to Craft & Tell Your Story | Chapter 4: Improve

Chapter 4: Improve

Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results.R. Sharma 

Congratulations, you’re in the final part of your school’s story! You’ve done all the hard work up to this point. You gathered, tracked, and analyzed all your numbers and created a compelling snapshot of your school and the hard work you do to help families with financial aid awards and support enrollment goals at your school.

In this chapter, you’re going to look back at what you might do differently next time. Imagine it’s like one of the Choose Your Own Adventure stories that your students read, and you’re going to know more this time around, learn from adjusting your course, and make your last chapter the best!

The keys to success in this chapter are looking at the process itself and identifying what you will continue, what improvements can be made, and what didn’t work that you can let go of next year. Are there reports that need a sharper focus, are there ways to highlight your award decisions to benefit you for next school year’s student enrollment?

How did your workflow go? Was your financial aid office team able to spend less time reviewing applicants and pulling reports? Could you reduce your time spent in committee meetings? Set goals for how much time you want to be spending and how you can streamline the efficiency of your applicant assessments.

Here are some key questions to ask when identifying if your financial aid process is working well for you or costing you too much time:

  • Does our software help us make the right financial aid decisions?
  • Do our financial aid system settings properly reflect our school policies?
  • Is our tracking of documents and allocation of budgeted dollars in line with what we need to be tracking?
  • Does our software program empower collaboration and cooperation between our financial aid committee members and our internal financial aid team?
  • Are we doing the absolute best job of keeping our numbers transparent and easy to understand for grantors?
  • Did we use the tools/features available in the program for better results? Are there places we can customize more of the data reporting?

Hint: This is a good time to solicit feedback from your team and incorporate opinions and perspectives from them on how to improve for next year.

Remember, don’t leave out the parents and the necessary communication you want to be able to have with them. Can you pull the data you need to quickly access all contact information? How can you use your system’s messaging tools to improve communication with parents?

When you’re running reports, remember your software is there to help you work smarter not harder. Do you have ease of use and confidence in your applicant profiles, and can you easily access all the information?

One thing your software should do is reduce your paper workload and manual processes. Determine what documents your parents need to submit and what things can be submitted online? Are there ways you can improve in the automation tracking of dollars expended, verifying parent amounts, or allocating budget dollars?

We’ve reached the conclusion of our blog series for Year-End Best Practices, but the story continues from one season to the next. Download your free copy of the complete guide here.

The best part of telling your whole story is also sharing it with peers and learning from your peers. Joining forces with others allows you to share, listen and get feedback or ideas for improvement. We’re here to help you as well, so we want to let you know about the FA Forum, our SSS online school community dedicated to advancing the profession of K-12 financial aid. Connect with school peers to ask questions, share expertise, and learn best practices. And the form is accessible right inside the SSS School Portal. Ready to learn more about SSS? Contact us today.

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