Thursday, October 13, 2011

Attention Seniors—Apply to College This Week. All of You.

By:  Patrick O'Connor  

If you’re looking for a way to motivate your students to apply to college, North Carolina just may be on to something.

Several years back, the College Foundation of North Carolina started College Application Week.  The idea was simple—pick a week to focus all of the energies of a high school on getting all seniors to apply to college that week.

That’s right- all seniors.

If you’re thinking this is a lofty goal, you’re right.  Fall is chock full of homecoming and football games and first quarter report cards and a million other things, so it’s easy for students to be distracted and hard to get teachers to lend their support to the effort.

If you’re thinking, this could be a logistical nightmare, you’re also right.  To really pull this off, you’d need to prep the seniors ahead of time with all kinds of information; you’d need enough computers up and running with Internet access so they could apply online; you’d need armloads of application fee waivers for students to use; and you’d need to prep parents with financial aid information, so they would have time to explore all college options with their senior before the big week came.

If you’re thinking, this is just too complicated to work, you’re wrong. During the first College Application Week, almost 42,000 college applications were submitted by North Carolina Seniors.  The week before, about 4500 were sent; same for the week after.  The following year, it was 53,000, *and* the average number of applications for the weeks before College Application Week were way up compared to the previous year.

These numbers don’t represent all seniors, but it’s far more than would ordinarily apply—and the results suggest more students are actual going to college, especially among low-income students, who get so caught in the energy of the week, they decide to take the plunge.

It gets better.  This kind of program can only work with many volunteers, and that means volunteers from college admissions offices, all roaming your hallways for a week.  Students can’t help but get the college message during the week, because it is literally everywhere in your school.  Talk about incentive for your lowerclassmen!

This can also become the break counselors need to actually talk with students about college.  If your building is planning a College Application Week, you’ll need at least all of October to talk to seniors, host a financial aid night, prepare transcripts, and train and recruit volunteers.  That means there’s no time to sharpen pencils or put test booklets in piles of 25—you’ve got students to see, and for at least this week, everyone respects that.

This idea seems to be taking off—six other states have a program in place, many more are trying one out this year, and it’s likely some kind of program will be in place in at least some high schools in all 50 states in the next few years.

It’s time to get ahead of the curve.  Take a look at the resources North Carolina has for their week at and don’t be afraid to set the trend in your state, or to ask North Carolina for help—they’ll be happy to get you going, as long as you don’t call them November 14-18.

They’ll be kinda busy.

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