Student Life

Hidden Motives in Financial Aid Promises: An Essay

Note from The Editor: The following was adapted from a “for class” assignment on advertisement analysis.

-Kimberly Servande-

Contemporary American young adults face a higher cost of attendance for college than any other generation of Americans. Therefore, it is no surprise that financial aid is a top priority for most students. The Menlo College administration knows this as well as any other; that is why Menlo students were given an advertisement pamphlet about it. The pamphlet is not all that it seems to be, allow me to explain why.

On eight by five card stock, the handout includes a dominating image of a happy Menlo student paired with text about the student’s pleasing experience and information about grants and scholarships. When read top to bottom, the large image stands out the most with side text, then on the back is actual information about scholarships and grants. Lastly on the bottom half, there is detailed information about completing Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through specific size, color, and font, the creators of this pamphlet are luring students to apply for FAFSA while problematically ignoring more practical ways of financial aid.  

The front of the pamphlet is dominated by the smiling student. The size of this image causes the audience to look at the image first, causing an immediatly pleasant mood. The text about his positive experience only reinforces that pleasantness. This decision was seemingly made to put the audience into a receptive state so that they are prepared for the information on the back.

The audience is in a happy state at this point. Once they have read this section, the happiness turns into hope because they are given information about the scholarships and grants that can help pay for college. The colors green and blue have common connections to Spring and renewal. This helps reinforce that hopeful mood.

The last area contains the information about the 2016-2017 FAFSA. There is No large image and No vibrant colors, there is only text. The text is in that basic Times New Roman font, the same font always enforced in MLA format. The letters are black and navy against white space. These decisions were most likely made to cause the content to appear similar to that of an academic paper. When students read academic papers, they are in a focused state of mind with a goal, such as critically analyzing or producing an essay. The specific font and color chosen for this section puts the audience in this state with the task of meeting the deadlines and using the link given to apply for the FAFSA, all the while not informing applicants of other opportunities.

From beginning to end, the audience goes from happiness, to hopefulness, and then to a focused state to complete the FAFSA. Utilizing specific size, color, and font, the creators were able to attract and then aim the audience. In retrospect, it would have made students much happier and more hopeful about paying for college if Menlo were to allocate direct funds to students or direct them to outside opportunities. Instead, this pamphlet is directing the audience to engage the FAFSA. It even mentions of a $5,000 scholarship opportunity if students were to submit FAFSA early. This larger emphasis on FAFSA than a more practical financial aid can be used to deduce that Menlo doesn’t actually care about students’ burden of college costs; they care more about the probable benefits they would receive if students did FAFSA early.

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