This is the transcript for Episode 14 (March 7, 2018) of the “Title IV + More Podcast for Utah Counselors and Educators” from Katie Wornek, Jacob Newman, and Bryan Lee at StepUp to Higher Education Utah.

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Please be advised that the FAFSA and federal student aid are subject to change. While we ensure all the information we share in each episode is accurate at the time of the episode’s release, our statements are not insulated from future changes. If you have questions, we encourage you to call us at 801-869-5701 or email us at outreach@utahsbr.edu.


Bryan: Welcome and thank you for listening to StepUp Utah’s Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators. This podcast is brought to you by StepUp to Higher Education Utah, helping Utah’s students and parents prepare and pay for college. Find more about us at StepUpUtah.com.

Jacob: Welcome, listeners. This is Jacob Newman and I’m a paying for college expert with StepUp Utah.

Katie: And I’m Katie Wornek, also a paying for college expert with StepUp.

Jacob: I’m going to go ahead and get us started this week with some new headlines. We have two this week. The first one is “Half of Utahns Have a Degree or Certificate” and this is from the Utah System of Higher Education. It comes from a progress report from the Lumina Foundation called “Stronger Nation”. It turns out that 49.5% of Utahns age 25-64 had a degree or certificate in 2016, and that exceeds the national average of 46.9%. Keep in mind that the governor’s goal is 66% by 2020. In terms of the break down in terms of what kinds of degree or what kinds of education Utahns have, 6% have a certificate,  10.7% have an associate’s, 22% have a bachelor’s degree, and 10.8% have a graduate degree. So kind of a really interesting report talking about the different educational attainments here in Utah. Another news headline that we have is about DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It turns out – this is from Inside Higher Ed – DACA increased educational attainment. A new working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – and if you don’t know what this is, this is an Executive Order by President Barack Obama that exempted some individuals who would have been maybe deported, it protects them from being deported and it also provides them with a working permit, so that’s just kind of some background for those of you who are unaware of what that is…been in the news a lot lately so a lot of people might know about it. But anyway, so this paper found that DACA led to a 45% decrease in teen birth rates, a 15% increase in high school graduation rates, and a 20% increase in college enrollment rates. So this is some really great data considering some of these youth, they’ve kind of been through the ringer a little bit lately with some shifting political winds, but I think this is really interesting to see some of the results that maybe wouldn’t have been anticipated from this executive order in 2012. And we’re going to go ahead and transition from there to the events that we have for this time of year. This time of year’s not quite as busy, which is kind of nice for Katie and I because after the fall I think we’re both a little tired. On the 16th of March – it’s hard to believe it’s March already – we will be at the Latinos in Action Leadership Conference at BYU. And on the 20th, we will be at the Wasatch Front Counselor Conference at Jordan Academy for Technology and Science. We’ll be presenting at that conference as well, so we look forward to seeing you there. And with that, we’ll go on to our FAFSA tip of the week.

Katie: Yea, I will be taking over for that. Our tip of the week theme for the month of March is verification. And the reason behind that is this is the time of year that colleges really start to select students for verification after they start to look at their FAFSAs. And I know from experience that we’re getting more and more calls about this from counselors, so I think it’s a really timely subject to be addressing. So our first tip this month is what is verification and how do you know if your student has been selected? This gets complicated because different colleges handle verification a little bit differently. Some schools will randomly select particular students for verification, other schools might verify every single student’s FAFSA – I don’t know that that’s very common because that’s a bureaucratic headache I’m sure and a lot of resources and time for the financial aid office, but some of them do choose to do that. And still other schools will select a student for verification only if they find some sort of conflicting information or they feel that additional documents are necessary to clarify what the student reported on the FAFSA. No matter what method the student’s institution uses, it’s important to try to be as accurate as possible the first time around when you’re filing the FAFSA with your student. The important thing to remind them that, even if they are selected for verification, that doesn’t mean that they’re in trouble. It just means that they need to follow up with their financial aid office at their college or university to follow the instructions that they’re given by the financial aid office. There are several ways that you will know if a student’s FAFSA has been selected for verification. First up, if the student filed their FAFSA online, they can log into the FAFSA at FAFSA.gov to look at their Student Aid Report or their “SAR”. So if they’re missing any information that the federal government has flagged, it will let them know in their Student Aid Report. And then if the college specifically has selected the student for verification, they will most likely inform the student through their email inbox or their student portal…a lot less commonly by mail, but that might happen, as well. Jacob, I know that we’ve had a couple of calls come in about verification. Is there anything that you would add to encourage counselors to try to go through this process with the student?

Jacob: So one thing that I will say is that this is also the time of year where a lot of students will do their FAFSA. One good tip to avoid verification in the first place is to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if they are eligible to make sure they are importing their taxes directly from the IRS. That makes them much less likely to be selected for verification. And we also see a lot of students who get discouraged by the verification process itself when it does come around. We really encourage counselors to just work with those students who have been selected for verification to just get the documents that are necessary. A lot of times it’s an IRS tax transcript or just some documentation that students might not be familiar with – or sometimes even counselors. If you have questions about verification, really, please reach out to us. We’re really here to help because this can often be a barrier that means students don’t end up enrolling in college in the fall.

Katie: Exactly. There is one other resource I forgot to mention and that is our FAFSA Data Site. For those of you who may not be familiar with this, UHEAA gets the FAFSA completion numbers and information directly from the Department of Education and we’re the entity in the state that houses all that completion data all the way down to individual student levels. So we have a website where counselors can log in and see a list of students, seniors specifically, who have A) completed the FAFSA, and B) whether or not that student’s FAFSA has been selected for verification. Now, we did have quite a few hiccups with that FAFSA data site this year as many of you know if you are already a data steward. Our IT department had to work really hard and spend a lot of time getting this up to the security standards that the Department of Education enforces. But I am proud to say, I’m happy to report, that we did meet those security requirements, IT is done, and your individual student-level data is now available as of about last week. So if you have any issues logging in, let us know, but that is a really good resource to find out if your students are undergoing a verification process or not.

Jacob: And we encourage you to reach out to those students who have been selected for verification because a lot of times if they don’t know they can’t do anything about it. Sometimes maybe they miss the email or something and you hate to have them get to school in the fall and if they are Pell grant eligible or they have other kinds of aid that they’re relying on, it’d be terrible to have to go through that process later in the year rather than earlier because it’s just good to get it done so when they get there in the fall, they’re good to go.

Katie: Great. So now we’re going to have our special interview with Bryan Lee who is the digital media and marketing person at StepUp Utah and he’s actually going to cover some tips and tricks for counselors in using social media to engage students.

Jacob: Today we have a special guest. We have Bryan Lee who is the digital and social media expert here at StepUp Utah. How’s it going, Bryan?

Bryan: It’s going great. Good to be here.

Jacob: We’re happy to have him and he’s going to talk a little bit with us about how to use social media as a counselor or a mentor. We’re going to ask him a couple questions, get some really great feedback from him and maybe get some best practices that you can use in your counseling efforts to reach out to students. So the first thing that I want to touch on is what are some trends or social media preferences that we’re seeing with this generation of students?

Bryan: Well, there are a lot of trends and it’s pretty different from millennials and generations older than that. One of the biggest is that Gen Z students have never known a phone that isn’t smart. Less than 10% of Gen Z students don’t own a smart phone, so the vast majority of them do and it’s how the vast majority of them get their information on a regular basis. They’ve also never not been able to Google something. I kind of feel the same way – millennials are, I would say, digital natives as well. And that’s a good thing. Being able to look up the answer to anything anytime is great. And not having to thumb through an encyclopedia or something to find an answer is an invaluable tool. This one’s kind of a joke – they’ve probably never heard of MySpace or AOL Instant Messenger like the rest of us, which is kind of funny when you think about the reasons why millennials use channels like Snapchat, which are private chat social media networks or image-based ones like Instagram. It’s kind of the same reasons why we were drawn to MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger back in the day is to have conversations with our friends that our parents couldn’t hear us talking on the phone while we’re doing it. So the same attitudes behind we use social media are still there. And just a few trend-related statistics from the Center for Generational Kinetics – more than any other generation, Gen Z feels that social media has a direct impact on their happiness, how they feel about themselves (so their self-esteem) and how other people see them. That’s how they have comments from friends back and forth, from family, it’s how they talk with their friends. It’s how they are influenced by brands and celebrities and different people and it’s easy to see how they would be influenced that heavily by social media. And I think the rest of us are whether or not we’d like to admit it.

Jacob: True (laughs).

Bryan: And the top networks today that are trending with Gen Z according to the “It’s Lit” research paper by Google, the top network is actually Instagram at 60%. They actually overtook Snapchat very recently through ripping off some of their features like the story. Which, that’s why a lot of people were using Snapchat and Instagram sort of gleaned some inspiration from that and took a lot of their base and now they’re the top network, so that’s a good one to be using if you are thinking about starting your own social media networks. And Snapchat is a close second at 56% of Gen Z students. They’re still using it and that’s not surprising, unless there’s another bad Tweet about it that leads to a million other people stopping using it. Then Facebook is in third at 53%, so despite what you hear about people not using Facebook anymore, they are definitely still using Facebook, including Gen Z. Then at fourth there’s Twitter at 34%. And that was actually surprising to me. I’ve been on Twitter for more than eight years and the amount of users fluctuates. And whether or not their ability to make money as a company was actually there has changed over time as well. And I think that the fact that it’s been entrenched in things like politics around the world and just on-the-spot notifications about news and events and things like that has led to people flocking to Twitter recently, which is really cool. It’s a unique social media network and it’s always growing still. An honorable mention was Google Plus according to this report. And this report, I’ll remind you, was made by Google. They said that Google Plus was at 42.2%, which I’m not sure how truthful that is.

Jacob: It might just be YouTube maybe?

Bryan: Yea, yea, I’m on the same page with you there. I’m pretty sure that’s people who have a username on YouTube and that also qualifies as a username on Google Plus. And again, I just want to address the myth that people don’t use Facebook anymore. Really, everyone uses Facebook just for certain things, and Gen Z in particular, they tend to not like to share things, especially posts they read. They keep those to themselves. But it doesn’t mean they’re not reading them. It doesn’t mean they’re not on those networks. And, of course, we all know Facebook is a really family-oriented network as well. It’s a good place to stay in contact with family that – across all ages – that use Facebook. So everyone is pretty much still on there. With that being said, we want to understand how Gen Z uses social media. And then also how we can take that and apply it to our own uses of social media and how we can inform those students about higher education. 85% of Gen Z students learn about new things like products from what they see on social media.  So we know it’s pretty obvious there, we can use places like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever really your network of choice is, to help students learn about new careers, to see what college classes are like, to get interested in things like maybe skilled trades they had never maybe heard of before, learn about how to prep for college, find scholarships, all these things are made much easier for students through social media. And then we have places like YouTube, and also Instagram and Facebook fall into this as well, that are top places where people find recommendations for things, whether that’s products or brands, or music or even colleges, higher education, things like professions and careers and what to do with your life. Video is a wonderful format to learn what things are and get down to the nitty gritty details without actually having to be there. You can see it all in a video on YouTube. If you don’t know how to do something, you can look it up and figure out within moments how to do it on YouTube. It’s an invaluable resource and we can definitely use it for things like college recommendations, career and major exploration. On our YouTube for example, we have videos on paying for college, all the different things that we offer as StepUp to students in Utah. And preparing for college, finding scholarships, all those things are,  I think, made a lot less intimidating when they’re presented in a short and easy to understand video format, and a lot of people really like learning about things that way. It’s really great to offer resources like that. And then Snapchat, the second top network around, is the top platform that’s used for places that are more like brick and mortar stores, like an actual location you can showcase to people, which I think also translates to a counselor at a high school. You can make sure that your students are informed about all the great things you’re doing as a counselor to help them. Also help highlight different things that are going on at your school. Just to get students engaged in that network and grow that so it can be fun and informative. And while it’s a little less formal, you can still keep it professional and college and school related and just provide that content in a fun way to students. And then just some other basic social media tips, parents use social media too. So we’re talking about Gen Z students a lot, but parents are definitely on there as well. I’m sure you use social media, I do too, my parents do. And when there’s something I want my parents to know about, I share it with them on Facebook.

Jacob: Done that before (laughs).

Bryan: Yea, and I know just from managing our social media channels that on our Facebook in particular, it’s mostly parents and educators who are the ones who are interacting with those posts so they can find out about our information from the Facebook page and then pass it on to their students or maybe instant message it to them from there. And then, if you do want to offer your own social media resources, a tip I have to offer is just to ask parents and students what they would prefer, what networks they like, so you can minimize your efforts there as a counselor. I know you have a lot to do at all times and adding another thing like a social media network can be very hard and almost impossible for some people to do. Just deciding on one can be a hard thing to do, and it could be the wrong one. So just asking your students and their parents what channel they would prefer to get that information from I think can help out immensely and maybe make it so you only manage one channel and that’s where your students and their parents get that information you provide. And also what that helps with – just another thing to add – is you can make sure you don’t alienate them from the spaces like, say…Gen Z students really like the privacy of Snapchat. It’s a way they can talk with their friends. Once that message is sent, it’s done, it’s not saved anywhere, it’s not posted publicly. So once you start bringing outside influences into that sort of environment, they can feel alienated and maybe even stop using it and, “I don’t want to use that anymore because it was private, and now it doesn’t feel so private anymore.” So it’s good to ask and make sure you don’t alienate your students or their parents when you are offering stuff via social media. And then Gen Z – they like, they rely upon, they learn from, and they even define themselves based upon the social influence of branding on social media. Some of those top brands that Gen Z students identify with according to that same Google Study, number one was Google. Believe it or not. It’s actually synonymous with searching for Gen Z students and I would say it is for myself too. Other brands like YouTube, another Google brand, Netflix, Oreo, PlayStation, and Xbox – just those bigger brands – have a lot of influence in social media. Higher education is definitely a brand too and for many of us, our education helps us define who we are. And being involved in social media is being about where your students are to help them through high school and into college. We’re responsible for the brand of higher education here in Utah and, thus, we have a responsibility to use that tool to help students see and understand how it can shape their lives and play a major role in reaching their career and life goals. It’s our job to make students understand how cool education really is and social media is the perfect place to do that. And again, if you just don’t have the time to run social media, which again, we completely understand, we just ask and encourage you to let your students know about our social media resources. It’s something that we are lucky enough to be able to have somebody that manages those things and puts out the content and we realize that you don’t have a person like that in your office. So let us be that person for you and just share the StepUp social media resources with your students and they should get a lot of help from that.

Jacob: That’s actually a great segue – so what platforms does StepUp use?

Bryan: We use several – not all of them – for good reasons. We don’t use the Snapchat for that same reason I was mentioning earlier. We just don’t want to alienate the Snapchat audience. And we also have a lot of different networks where we put out our content and Snapchat is not the right place for us to do that. But, the ones we do have, we do have a Facebook which is facebook.com/stepuputah. On there, we post our blogs, we have our events calendar, we share our resources. We’re part of several groups with other Utah education networks and organizations and we share their resources on there, so it’s a great place to find out about other resources outside of StepUp as well. And we also offer a direct message channel on our Facebook page so, if you do want to reach out to us in a private chat environment, you can do that there and ask us any questions relating to our programs or just preparing and paying for college on that channel, so it’s a great place even just for having a private conversation with us if you need to. And then we also run things like targeted ad campaigns on Facebook. It’s a good reason for us to do it. As we all know, Facebook knows everything about us, same with Google, and it helps us define the people we want to reach with our message. If we want to reach Generation Z students about higher education and getting excited about it, then Facebook is a great place. We’re also on Instagram, for the visual learners. That’s Instagram.com/stepuputah or just @StepUpUtah. And then we’re on Twitter, again at @StepUpUtah or Twitter.com/stepuputah. And again, that’s the network where we don’t pay attention to frequency of posting or anything like that, we just post whenever necessary and whenever something news related or any new piece of content is ready to be pushed out, we’ll put it on Twitter because it’s just fast-moving information land out there. So if you’re that type of person – you like the in-the-moment, the newest and hottest out there, then Twitter is the best place for that. And then of course, YouTube, we’re on there at Youtube.com/stepuputah. I spoke a little bit about our video resources we have on there earlier. And then we’re also on Google My Business, which, it’s debatable whether or not it’s a social media network. But why I wanted to mention that is because it’s a valuable thing for a business and even a counseling office to register themselves on because it makes it so when someone does Google something like “college prep” and your high school name, you can make it so your office, your counseling office, comes up when someone searches for that.  And like, “Oh I didn’t think to ask my counseling office. Thanks, Google.” It’s good just to be visible in social media and just on Google. Like we said, it’s synonymous with search, so if someone doesn’t know what to do, they search for it, and they can find you when they do that, that’s what you want, right? Then we have our blog, which is kind of like the home base of our social media content. And that’s stepuputah.com/blog. That’s where we offer more detailed information, so it’s like the full story behind the social media posts. And then our last bit of social content that we offer as StepUp is our Prepare + Pay for College Newsletter. It’s kind of where people can go if they don’t want to follow us on a social media network or don’t have that, they can just get our information delivered straight to them to their email inbox. And you can sign up for that or anyone can sign up for that on our website. We have different newsletters for different grades and along with parents as well as counselors and educators, they have their own newsletters as well where it’s tailored information for them. So we offer a lot of different resources on a lot of different platforms for all the different preferences out there. If you don’t find yourself having the time to manage social media networks, then let us be that for you.

Jacob: Awesome. Do you have any suggestions for counselors about the frequency of posts on these various networks?

Bryan: Oh yes, most definitely. Frequency of posting can be a pretty sensitive make-or-break subject when it comes to posting on social media depending on the network you’re using. If you’re looking for a network where constant posting without any sort of frequency limit is what you want, then Snapchat and Twitter are probably your places. You can post there without any limit. It’s all about the in-the-moment information, so as long as you’re Tweeting or Snapping about in-the-moment information, frequency doesn’t matter. If you are looking for a more balanced network where you can make one post a day or every other day, then maybe something like Facebook or Google Plus if that is what your audience is looking for or maybe even a blog or Instagram is what you’re looking for. And those, it’s really like a once per day or every other day sort of frequency limit. That’s really about it on frequency. Again, what I would just encourage is that you ask your audience sort of what they’re looking for. If they don’t want to be inundated with a ton of information, then probably go with the once daily or every other day approach. If it’s more of a “I want anything and everything you guys can give me about college prep” then maybe start a Twitter or Snapchat. That could be the exact right network for you.

Jacob: Awesome. Now, this is kind of a question that I think a lot of counselors and educators probably have on their mind. Is there anything that you think a counseling team should know about student privacy when it comes to social media?

Bryan: Yes, most definitely. A few biggies. The first one being that if you’re a counselor who is active on social media at your school or outside of your school, just offering resources via social media, then always be sure to have photo and video releases or permissions with sign off from parents if you’re posting any resources that picture students or picture your school or any of those things, you want to make sure that you’re aren’t going to be ticking off any parents by posting pictures you weren’t allowed to. And some parents are very sensitive to that sort of thing. They don’t prefer to have pictures of them or their students online and it’s good to respect that. And then also, you know, it’s just illegal to post pictures of people without their permission, so it’s good just to make sure that you have that permission and that your social media networks are in compliance with the laws. Second tip is that social media and social media worlds are very large. There are so many different resources by so many different people and organizations and brands out there that it’s good to fully review anything and everything you find to share with your students before sharing. Don’t just watch the first 30 seconds of a video or read the first paragraph of an article and say this is relevant, I’m going to share it. You need to make sure you fully review those resources and make sure they are appropriate for your audience, that all the content is appropriate and acceptable to not only your audience, but your school as well. That it conforms with all the different rules and laws that you need to be in compliance with. So there’s also personal and private information. Just as a rule of thumb, don’t communicate private information on social media networks to parents or students, even if they ask for it. If they ask for it, just recommend that they give you a call or they come in to visit you in the school so you can discuss those private matters. And if you do notice anything inappropriate or private that pops up on social media from your students or any of their parents, just make sure you report it to and through any official channels and then don’t address it over social media. Move it to an offline format like a phone call or in person just to make sure that’s addressed and that doesn’t happen again so nobody’s personal information is compromised. And then lastly, something to be very aware of when you’re using social media is your professionalism as a counselor. You want to keep your private life as separate from that resource, that social media resource that you’re offering, keep it as separate as possible from your professional social media. While social media does provide a place to have more conversations and provide more information and resources to your students, you want to maintain your professional relationship with them as well. Social media might encourage less professional language or imagery at times, but you need to make an effort to not compromise privacy or professionalism when expanding our counseling or outreach efforts via social media.

Jacob: Awesome. That was a really great segment and really great tips. If you have any questions or you want some advice, you can actually reach out to us on social media for some more advice, which is kind of ironic. Seems very meta at this point. Thanks so much for joining us today, Bryan.

Bryan: Yea, no problem. Thanks for having me.

Katie: We’re happy to have had Bryan in for that guest interview and we appreciate all the hard work that he does on our social media accounts and we hope that his expertise helps you. As we wrap up this episode, I just want to remind counselors about our FAFSA Cup promotion. So, every year we give away a $750 professional development grant and a trophy to counseling teams who demonstrate excellence in helping students complete the FAFSA and navigate the financial pathway to higher education. If you are interested in applying, we are accepting applications through tax day this year, so middle of April. And I believe tax day is on a Sunday, so I’ll have to double check on the website, but I believe we extended the deadline to April 17 since the 15th falls on a Sunday. So if you are instersted in applying, you can check out the rules, the application, and the scoring rubric on our website, stepuputah.com. Just search “FAFSA Cup” in the search bar and we’ll have a link to that in the transcript. But that is actually all for this episode. Next episode, you can expect another FAFSA tip, more news headlines and events, a counselor spotlight for the month of March, and we will be interviewing Lais Martinez, who is the new Utah System of Higher Education college access and Utah College Application Week coordinator. That is a mouthful so, in a nutshell, she is going to be your new point of contact if you participate in UCAW and want to facilitate that event. In the meantime, we encourage your feedback, your questions, and any counselor spotlight nominations. Thanks for joining us.

Jacob: See you next time.

Bryan: StepUp to Higher Education is an outreach initiative of the State of Utah that empowers 8th through 12th grade students and their families to prepare for college. We believe every Utah student should pursue education after high school, whether that be a one-year certificate, a two-year degree, a four-year degree, or beyond that. We provide programs and resources to encourage college prep and success, as well as training and materials for school counselors like you. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators. You can find more about us, order outreach and access materials, or request a StepUp Utah event at your school at StepUpUtah.com. And lastly,  be sure to follow us on social media. You can find us at Facebook.com/StepUpUtah, also on Instagram and Twitter by searching  for @StepUpUtah. You can also find our Outreach Officers on social media, as well. Just search for @StepUpKatie and @StepUpJacob.


This is the transcript for Episode 13 (February 22, 2018) of the “Title IV + More Podcast for Utah Counselors and Educators” from Katie Wornek, Jacob Newman, and Bryan Lee at StepUp to Higher Education Utah.

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on iTunes

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Please be advised that the FAFSA and federal student aid are subject to change. While we ensure all the information we share in each episode is accurate at the time of the episode’s release, our statements are not insulated from future changes. If you have questions, we encourage you to call us at 801-869-5701 or email us at outreach@utahsbr.edu.