North Carolina College Application Week is an annual event sponsored by the College Foundation of North Carolina and is a part of College Application Month. The goal of the 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 took place November 13th-17th.
A Second-Year Perspective…
As the first college adviser at Walter Williams High School, it’s my job to not only help students through the college application process, but to also get them excited about it! The initial rush of college application season starts in October with the first early deadlines but the real peak happens in November during College Application Week. Naturally, many of my 260 seniors have been nervous about applying to college (it’s no easy task), so I made sure to plan engaging activities and provide lots of encouragement to turn that nervousness into excitement. This wasn’t my first rodeo; I helped plan last year’s College Application Week and witnessed eager students apply to college, many of them submitting their very first college application. I was determined to make this year bigger and better!
Every student was called to the media center at an assigned time, either individually or with their class. Students used this opportunity to work on any part of the application process, whether it was completing the NC Residency Determination Service application, registering for standardized tests, applying to college, submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or completing scholarships from a special list I created specifically for the week. Every senior who participated was entered into a raffle for a daily prize drawing. Students had the chance to win t-shirts, water bottles, college pennants, and dorm room swag. The school counselors and I were present to provide assistance and answer questions. There was certainly no shortage of questions!
To help students stay motivated, I invited Barton College and Campbell University to conduct on-site admissions sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. “What’s on-site admissions?” you may ask. During these sessions, which a select number of schools offer, applicants are able to meet individually with an admissions representative to receive a decision on the spot. Ten of my students were offered acceptances as well as scholarships, which served as a huge confidence boost. The buzz definitely spread around Williams as students showed off their early acceptances!
Since I wanted to give parents the opportunity to get involved in College Application Week, I hosted a FAFSA Night on Wednesday with a financial aid specialist from Alamance Community College. As a first-generation college student, I remember how confusing the FAFSA was to complete. This detailed financial aid form can be a barrier to students enrolling in college. It is important to me to offer special programming for families to ask questions and submit their financial aid applications.
All in all, College Application Week was a success! It was truly a school-wide effort. I would like to express gratitude to the wonderful school counselors who answered student questions along with me, the teachers who dedicated their class time to College Application Week activities, the volunteers who donated their time to giving students pep talks and advice, our media specialist who patiently troubleshooted the inevitable technical issues that occurred, and the staff who provided their support throughout the entire week. Though acceptance letters are still a few months away, I can tell my seniors already feel a sense of accomplishment after submitting their applications and taking this step towards their bright futures.
A First-Year Perspective…
College Application Week (CAW), the week that I have been anticipating since summer training, is over. My seniors at Hillside High School crushed College Application Week and I more than survived the week…in fact, my heart could not be any more full!
We kicked things off on Monday with a senior assembly hosted by an admissions representative from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who discussed the importance of obtaining a college education, diversifying the college application pool, and taking advantage of College Application Week. Throughout the week, seniors were assigned a class period to visit the media center and focus in on their post-secondary plan. For most of my students, this meant taking advantage of the 30+ colleges and universities that waived their application fees for the week. My military and workforce-bound students spent their time crafting resumes which I then helped them edit. Student volunteers from UNC-Chapel Hill and NC Central University were on hand to help seniors with their applications!
By the end of the week, 230 students had participated! I am so proud of my students and all of their hard work. Every minute of preparation and stress was worth it the moment I saw a student eagerly call their mother to inform her that they had completed their first college application. The impact of the week was evident in the school-wide excitement that spread beyond the senior class. Underclassmen eagerly participated in the spirit week and parents even came in to assist their students with college applications. These instances are prime examples of the growing college-going culture within the Hillside High School community.
Reflecting on the week, there are a few things that I plan do differently next year, including emphasizing the importance of completing the NC Residency Determination Service application early and highlighting participating schools that my students may be less familiar with. It is a privilege to serve this group of ever-deserving students and I look forward to building on this year’s College Application Week success as a second-year college adviser!