Author: Krista McGuire, Second-Year Adviser serving West Charlotte High School 

My goal has been to use social media to keep followers informed about education policy, elevate and promote excellence in black and brown communities, talk about what it’s like to be an adviser, and provide followers with knowledge for navigating the college going process. In my mission to find and follow authorities on all things education, I stumbled upon Get Schooled.

Get Schooled is a nonprofit organization that was created in partnership with Viacom and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010. Their mission, much like the Carolina College Advising Corps, is to equip students with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the college process. Get Schooled has built an impressive online presence for an organization in the education access sector. By consistently pushing out engaging content relevant to young people, Get Schooled has an Instagram account that now boasts nearly 23.4k followers. Their Twitter account has nearly three times that at 67.1k. Their website, GetSchooled.com, has received more than 10 million views since its creation and has nearly 1 million registered users.

I was initially drawn by how they engaged with users on Twitter with simple tweets like, “Quote this with how much money you need for college,” or more motivational tweets encouraging students not to give up on their dreams. I would retweet and reply to their tweets and at times they would retweet me, exposing me to their following. Early in the school year they did a campaign in which they asked educators what materials they needed for their classrooms. They tweeted me specifically asking what I could use. Long story short, in about two weeks I received a package from Get Schooled with a UCLA t-shirt, notebooks for my students, and other materials!

Later in September @GetSchooled direct messaged me on Twitter and announced they’d be doing a huge push for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in October and inviting professionals to speak live on their social media accounts about financial aid. They said that based on my social media presence and enthusiasm, they wanted to invite me to take over their Instagram account. I freaked out. This organization with tens of thousands of followers, who had given out tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships and flown recipients to the set of TRL had just asked me to go live on their social media account!

I stressed that I was not a financial aid professional but that I would do my best. I was asked to pick any financial aid topic, and the day and time that worked for me. I chose to address special circumstances. It seems my students have more exceptions than most when it comes to filling out the FAFSA and I know they aren’t the only ones with questions about unique situations. In the weeks leading up to the event, I brainstormed various scenarios that may complicate the FAFSA for a student – everything from students with dependents of their own, to students with incarcerated parents, to students whose parents are separated but still live in the same home. I took advantage of a fortuitously timed College Foundation of North Carolina training, which included financial aid professionals, to gain professional insight on a number of scenarios.

I was calm cool and collected until the day before I was scheduled to go live…fellow adviser, Laura Ornelas, asked me how I felt and I panicked. Suddenly the possible magnitude of it hit me. What if students asked me questions I didn’t know? What if so many people started viewing and asking questions that I couldn’t keep up? Laura made the suggestion that we invite all of the local Charlotte advisers to meet at a central location to go live and answer questions together. I made a desperate plea to my colleagues and promised pizza in exchange for their help. Much to my relief, my fellow college advisers obliged! Le’Asha Neal, Destiny Blue, and Abigail Jaimes, in addition to Laura Ornelas, came over to offer their support. We each took a financial aid sub topic. Abigail explained work-study, I talked about student loans, and Destiny discussed grants.

In all, over one hundred students tuned in for the live view and I’m sure many more were able to view the saved video after the stream concluded. We had high school students and current college students tune in. Some of my own students even joined the stream!

While I was nervous at first, the questions we received weren’t anything we couldn’t handle. Many had to do with dependency or whether or not students could or should file the FAFSA. I loved it! Being able to answer questions in real time was refreshing, and having the support of my fellow college advisers put me at ease. We pulled from our collective wealth of knowledge and experiences to tag team questions from viewers across the country!

I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to engage with students in a unique way. In this day and age, many young people have some form of technology or social media. Technology is a way to bridge divides and make college going resources more accessible. It’s in my best interest as an adviser, especially in a metro area like Charlotte, to continue to find effective ways to utilize technology to engage students and parents.

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