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Emily SimpsonAuthor: Emily Simpson, First-Year Adviser serving Mount Airy and North Surry High Schools

“Ms. Simpson, did you get my e-mail? I got accepted to Western!” The acceptance letters are already pouring in across Surry County. It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago we were in the midst of College Application Week…

North Carolina College Application Week is an annual event sponsored by the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC), the Carolinas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (CACRAO), and the UNC General Administration. The goal of College Application Week is to provide every North Carolina high school senior with the opportunity to apply to college, as well as to build excitement and awareness around post-secondary education. In an effort to reduce the barriers associated with college access, a number of participating public and private institutions agree to waive their application fees for the week (this year’s event was held November 10th-14th). Similar celebrations take place across the country, and this year our celebration followed the Presidential Proclamation that November 2014 be National College Application Month.

For those of us serving as college advisers, College Application Week is our Everest. For five days we eat, sleep, and breathe college applications. During summer training, second-year advisers tell us that College Application Week is the stuff of legends. We plan and prepare. We share best-practices. We attend training sessions and webinars. And then suddenly, it’s November, and College Application Week is upon us.

Between North Surry High School and Mount Airy High School, I serve 320 wonderfully unique students. It was my goal for the week to provide each of these students the opportunity to focus on applications and to have their college questions answered. We kicked off the week with an application day at Mount Airy High School. Every student was called to the media center at an assigned time to work on applications, either individually or with their English class. Students spent this time submitting applications, investigating schools, and researching scholarships. While many students had already submitted their applications, a number of students were just beginning the process. Whether standing by as they clicked the final “submit,” or giving a word of encouragement as they made the decision to begin that first application, it was an honor to support my students through this leg of their college journey.

Student at computer

We didn’t slow down on Tuesday, even though students were out of school for Veterans Day. A small group of students chose to give up their day off in exchange for a college trip to Boone, North Carolina. We enjoyed tours at Appalachian State University and Lees-McRae College, as well as lunch in a campus dining hall (always a great way to show students what college is really like!). We were so appreciative of these campuses’ warm welcome, and a glimpse of college life only increased my students’ motivation to complete their applications.

Wednesday was busy, busy, busy as North Surry students participated in an application day. On Thursday and Friday, students took part in “I applied” celebrations. At North Surry, students “rolled out the red carpet for College Application Week”: they dressed up in a Hollywood-themed photo booth, signed a “Why College” banner, and left their signature on an “Application Walk of Fame” star. Mount Airy students enjoyed a similar celebration: they took photos in a photo booth, signed an “I Applied” poster, and decorated college pennants. There were even rumors of students sending “I applied” Snapchats and posting College Application Week pictures to their Facebook profiles…I consider that quite a success!

College Application Week wasn’t over until the winners of the Mount Airy and North Surry door decorating contests were announced. As a way to include underclassmen in College Application Week, fourth period classes were invited to decorate their teacher’s door according to a college them. Students were included in the planning, decorating, and voting…and the results were unbelievable (cupcakes for the winning class served as a strong motivating force)!

banners

It was a week of many questions, password resets, and reminders about many schools’ approaching November 15th application deadline; a week that I can only characterize as organized chaos. But our students were met with flexibility, patience, and encouragement from the staff. Teachers donated class time. Media center coordinators dedicated computer labs. Counselors and teachers jumped right in and assisted with application questions. Volunteers from the State Employees Credit Union passed around sign-in lists and stickers. Staff arrived at school decked out in college colors for spirit day. Teachers decorated doors that could be considered works of art. It was this community-wide commitment to College Application Week that led to 218 seniors participating and 123 applications being submitted across both schools.

four women posing holding signs

At the end of the week, I felt a renewed energy thinking about the students who may not have applied to college at all without the supportive and encouraging environment that College Application Week provided. I think back on the students who researched North Carolina institutions and, upon finding a match, realized that college may be for them after all. I am inspired by the students who gave up their free periods to work on personal statements. I admire the teachers who dressed up in college gear, sent their students to complete applications, and supported the week’s events; their support sent a clear message that the staff believes their students’ futures are bright. And I beamed when a student e-mailed me on a Saturday night to share with me that he had already received his first acceptance letter. This was truly a College Application Week full of successes!

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