What do Skittles have to do with paying for college?

Misperceptions about the costs of college – and how to pay for it – are very common amongst low-income, minority, and first-generation college students.  These students and their families tend to overestimate the costs of attending college, and the overwhelming majority don’t know about grants and scholarships to help pay for college.

As a result, many students don’t know how to make their college dreams come true. In order to overcome these barriers, the Alabama Possible created the Skittles Game for its Blueprints College Access Initiative students.

The Skittles Game begins with each Blueprints student picking an Alabama college. These colleges can be a 2-year, 4-year, public or private institution. Students are then given a breakdown of the total cost of attendance, which includes tuition, room and board, and books for that school.

To win the Skittles Game, students must pay the total cost of attendance using as many types of financial aid, or skittles, as they need. Each skittle is worth $1,000, and the five colors of skittles represent merit-based aid, need-based aid, private scholarships, subsidized loans, and private loans.

Ramsay High School Freshman Yazemeen Oliver said, “It made me realize there are many different ways to pay for college.”

Students roll a dice, flip a coin, and do other things to secure different amounts and types of aid. As the game progresses, each type of aid is discussed. Interesting conversations emerge among the students as they notice that it takes some students more or less aid to pay for college, depending on the type of institution and their ACT scores.

“I learned that you can get a scholarship for being a first generation college student,” said Ramsay High School Freshman Markielah Lyle. “I learned about community scholarships and that every scholarship is important no matter how large or small the amount is.”

The high school students’ near-peer mentors also learn from the experience. Birmingham-Southern College mentor Caroline Santopadre said she “learned that there were many different types of financial aid.”

As a result of the game, students learn about the types of financial aid available to fund higher education and acquire financial literacy tools. The Skittles game is appropriate for students in 8th – 12th grade. Find the instructions here and the game sheets here.