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The Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is a non-profit organization that provides support to financial aid administrators and other agencies involved in the administration of financial aid programs in Wisconsin’s postsecondary educational institutions. 


The WASFAA Blog contains updates from the WASFAA President, highlights committee activities and member profiles, and provides articles written by members and guests.

WASFAA Wednesday - An Eye Opening Experience

An Eye Opening Experience - How the Reality Check Event Impacts Students

Early Awareness Committee

Spending the day with 100 Middle School students might not sound like a perfect day for most people but for the Early Awareness Committee, that is exactly what they want to do. This committee held a successful Reality Check event at Oregon Middle School on February 18. During this 2 hour event, these students were in engaged in a hands on real life financial simulation.

Students were assumed to be 28 years old and were randomly assigned:

  • profession and income
  • marital status
  • # of children
  • educational level

They then visited 20 stations that included things like: housing, transportation, child care, food, insurance, entertainment and taxes.  They gained valuable experience in writing checks, paying bills, and making daily decisions that all adults tackle on a monthly basis. This event stresses the importance of budgeting, prioritizing spending decisions, and saving money.

Last year the committee changed how the Reality Check (aka Carnival of Learning) event was being done. Previously this event was held immediately preceding one of our WASFAA conferences. Beginning last year, the event has been held at a school instead of at a conference. Fortunately the Early Awareness Committee has been able to partner with Oregon Middle School (OMS) to do this event for the last 2 years. Last year, 50 students participated. This year a morning and afternoon session were done which allowed 100 students to participate.  OMS staff is highly supportive of this event and it is because of their efforts that this event is so successful. They solicited parent and community volunteers to man the stations, sent out materials to families in advance of the event including a pre event questionnaire and then had follow up discussion and debrief with the students to discuss lessons learned.  

After the 2 hour event, students are asked to complete a post event questionnaire to determine if the event met its objectives. A few quotes from the students when asked to describe what they learned from this experience:

“I learned how to balance a checkbook and that taking care of lots of people is expensive!”

"That being a 28 year old janitor with 2 kids sucks.”

“Save your MONEY!”

“Life sux when you are a dropout!”

“Go to college, get a good job, don’t get married (unless he makes money) and don’t have kids.”

“Use your money wisely and don’t buy unnecessary things.”

“That my parents have it hard.”

“Life is expensive so that is why I am going to college.”

Based on those comments, it appears that students did learn some valuable lessons. It is the committee’s goal to expand this program to other middle schools in Dane County and then to other locations throughout the state. If you have connections with a middle school that would be interested in hosting this event, please contact Heidi Johnson or Kari Gribble

We Are WASFAA - Mary Bell »

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