First in FAFSA Challenge

2021 FAFSA Challenge Eligibility and Requirements Archive

myFutureNC will sponsor the inaugural 2021 First in FAFSA Challenge! We know that completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is a good predictor of a student attending and completing higher education. myFutureNC has been lifting up this work to create a college-going culture with a goal of moving the needle on college access and completion. Increasing FAFSA completion is a fundamental step in North Carolina’s efforts to meet our statewide education attainment goal. Students who complete the FAFSA are more likely to enroll in higher education, persist in their college coursework, and obtain a degree. While many schools will have higher FAFSA completion rates by the time students graduate, additional state funding, institutional dollars, and private scholarships may be available if the FAFSA is completed earlier in their senior year of high school. Our goal in this first year of the FAFSA Challenge is to increase FAFSA completion in every high school in North Carolina by partnering with high schools to ensure students receive as much funding as possible!

The First in FAFSA Challenge

North Carolina public high schools are invited to join the challenge to promote FAFSA completion and the chance to win $500 for their school! Participating high schools will compete among similar schools by senior class size and location:

Traditional Schools

  • Extra Small (5-79)
  • Small (80-165)
  • Medium (166-267)
  • Large (268+)
  • Rural

Cooperative Innovative High Schools (CIHS)

Charter Schools

There will be winners in each of the following four categories:

  • Overall highest percentage of FAFSA completions
  • Overall highest percentage increase in FAFSA completion
  • Most innovative FAFSA completion strategy – statewide
  • Most innovative FAFSA completion strategy – Priority Districts

The FAFSA Challenge registration deadline ended on Friday February 19, 2021 (5:00pm ET).

Winners of the grants will be announced in July/August 2021.

  • FAFSA completion results will use federal data (compiled and analyzed by Carolina Demography) with the closest federal reporting period to June 30, 2021, comparing 2020 to 2021 completion. High school senior enrollment will come from the North Carolina Department of Instruction (NCDPI) as reported from the high school late fall.
  • Check with your school’s lead counselor to determine the point of contact for your school.
  • One winner will be chosen from each category:
    • Overall highest % FAFSA completion
    • Overall highest % increase
    • Most innovative strategy for increasing FAFSA completion. To win the $500 for best FAFSA completion strategy, a final summary and reflection will be due by April 30, 2021 – more details to come. For this category, there will be a statewide innovation grant and a grant for FAFSA Priority Districts. Apply here.


FAQs for FAFSA Challenge
  • Who can join the Challenge?

This competition is for public high schools across North Carolina who register to join the Challenge.

  • What does the winning high school receive?
    The winning high school in each category will receive $500 for their counseling office to support a college culture. Winners will be announced in Summer 2021. More details to come.
  • How are the school categories determined?
    Participating high schools will compete among similar schools by senior class size and location:
    • Extra Small – (5-79)
    • Small (80-165)
    • Medium (166-267)
    • Large (268+)
    • Rural
    • Cooperative Innovative High Schools (CIHS)
    • Charter Schools
  • How often will I have access to the report to check my school’s progress?

The NC First in FAFSA Tracker will be updated weekly to support your day-to-day efforts in supporting your students in completing the FAFSA. myFutureNC will send out a monthly newsletter highlighting schools and districts with month-over-month growth, additional resources and events to support your students, and opportunities to learn from other schools in their approaches.

For more information about the Challenge, contact

Thank You to the 499 public high schools registered for the 2020-2021 First in FAFSA Challenge

NC First in FAFSA Challenge Registrations 4.1.2021

  • 77% of NC public high schools are registered
  • 100% of the 115 NC public school districts have at least one high school registered
  • 69% of NC public school districts have all high schools in their district registered

Check out our LEADERBOARD! 

The applications for the Innovation Grant are now closed.