Hosting an event will require a great deal of organization and may even entail some expense. The more you plan ahead, the more smoothly your event will go. Below, we set out general tips for planning an event. You also can find specific tips for financial aid or college preparation events and for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) completion events.
Set Goals for the Event
What message do you want to convey to students and parents? What actions do you want them to take? What outcomes do you want for them? The answers to these questions can determine the agenda, structure, and length of your event.
For instance, if you simply want your students to be aware of the many options in postsecondary education in your area, you might want to host a college fair at which schools can set up information tables. You might not want to line up any speakers but instead allow students to show up when they like, visit the information tables, and then leave.
On the other hand, if your goal is for students to file a FAFSA® form, you will need to decide whether you will lead the entire group of attendees through the application one question at a time or allow them to start as they arrive, work through the form at their own pace, and get the help of experts standing by. How you arrange your event depends on what you want to get from it and what you think would best suit the needs and characteristics of your audience.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to have a clear goal for your event so that you can plan event timing, agenda, expert speakers, handouts, and advertising around that goal.
Choose Location, Date, and Time
Think about your audience—but also about your own needs and resources—as you plan the time and place for your event.
Is the location convenient (and inexpensive) for the audience to get to? Will you have to pay a fee to access the location? If so, can you pool funds with another school or organization to save money? Or can you find an alternate location free of charge? Ask local colleges and churches whether they have space available for your event.
Is there a date when many of your audience members would be unable to attend due to a competing event? Is there a time of day that is particularly ideal for your audience? Will you be serving substantial refreshments? If not, don't hold your event too close to lunch or dinnertime, or your attendance will drop.
As you consider the pros and cons of different locations and times, talk to colleagues; they might think of obstacles or opportunities that you haven't.
If you want to have one or more presentations at your event, you'll need presenters. Try the following:
- Depending on your level of comfort with the topic and with public speaking, you can be the presenter. Get tips on making a presentation about financial aid.
- Ask the admissions or financial aid staff at a local college if someone is available to speak.
- Find out if there's a college access organization near you that can provide an expert in the topic you want to feature. (Invite them to bring their students to your event so they can benefit as well.)
- Email FSAOutreach@ed.gov to see whether someone from the Federal Student Aid Outreach Team will be in your area around the time of your event and can speak to your audience about financial aid. Please note that the Outreach Team is small, with a limited budget, and cannot fulfill all requests for speakers. In order to respond to your email, the Outreach Team will require the following information:
- Contact name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Organization name
- Date of event
- Name of event
- Complete event location address
- Audience size expected
- Audience type: high school students, adult learners, counselors, etc.
- Type of request: panel participant, presenter, exhibit booth, etc.
Advertise the Event
Start advertising your event as early as possible, and advertise it in a variety of ways to reach the largest number of people. Remember the old adage that someone has to see or hear a message seven times before they take action? Here are seven ways you can advertise your event:
- Email students and parents.
- Put up posters around the community.
- Share the details on your school's or organization's website.
- Put ads in your local paper and school paper.
- Tweet about it.
- Put an ad on local radio.
- Spread the word via your Facebook page.
There are plenty of ways to get the word out about your event; try as many as you can.
Poster Template(Result Type: DOC)
Description: This poster template can be used by organizations to create fliers for upcoming financial aid events. [8.94 MB]
Resource Type: Templates
Related: Print Ad Template(Result Type: DOC), Presentation Template(Result Type: PPT)
Print Ad Template(Result Type: DOC)
Description: This print ad template can be used by organizations to create advertisements for upcoming financial aid events. [4.16 MB]
Resource Type: Templates
Related: Poster Template(Result Type: DOC), Presentation Template(Result Type: PPT)
At your event, you can use handouts or videos from our collection by searching our collection of financial aid tools and resources and downloading the items you need.
Get Help Carrying Out the Event
Besides starting your planning early, one of the best things you can do to ensure the success of your event is to get help. Ask colleagues to collaborate in the organization and preparation. Ask subject experts to share their knowledge in mini-workshops. Ask students to serve as the set-up and clean-up crews, welcome people at the door, hand out materials, and serve refreshments. Don't go it alone.
Assess the Event's Success
If appropriate, provide an evaluation form for your event, and review any feedback you get. Hold a “lessons learned” meeting after the event, and take notes so you'll have a record of what worked and what didn't work. That way, you'll be even better prepared when it's time to organize your next event.