Funded By: U.S. Department of Education
Audience: Counselors, educators, students, parents
Focus: Financial aid
Big Picture: The Financial Aid Toolkit is just that—a highly-organized, easy-to-use website of resources that allows users to fairly quickly access just the “tool” they need in the process of figuring out financial aid for college. While the site is perfect for students and parents, the language is geared toward educators and counselors (expect imperatives like “advise your students” and use the site how you will). Navigation is clearly broken into four buckets: learning about financial aid, outreach and media, training for educators, and a powerful search engine of the toolkit’s resources. A banner at the bottom provides rolling headlines for the site’s RSS newsfeed.
Big Challenge Solved: The site frames its message to educators, which makes sense (since it is sponsored by the Department of Education), and positions itself as a powerful ally to teachers determined to guide their students along the critical path to higher learning.
Must Use: Everything you always wanted and needed to know about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is at your fingertips here—for students looking to use it, and educators looking to teach it.
Most Unique Tool: The site’s search engine isn’t just a field for data entry—drop-down menus allow precise filtering to the exact kind of resources the user is looking for, making for a more efficient way to round up specific tools.
Best Middle-School Student Tool: The social media outreach page connects students with all the different messaging outlets the government has regarding financial aid. Users can easily drill down to the USDE’s YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter feeds.
Best High-School Student Tool: We like the site’s extensive section on loan repayment—with the many resources that exist for how to get loans, the site attempts to educate students on the burden of repaying them and how to keep the debt manageable.
Protip: Although the site is clear and clean, it does house a wealth of relevant info. Make use of the drop-down menus in each of the four navigation buckets—they are well thought-out and provide the best way through the site’s messaging.