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Utah College Application Week Helps Seniors Prepare for Life after High School

Jan 04, 2016 01:07PM ● Published by Stephanie Lauritzen

By Stephanie Lauritzen

Cottonwood-Holladay - In 2013, the Utah System of Higher Education sponsored a pilot college application program in eight local high schools. Now the program has expanded to include over 100 high schools as part of the Utah College Application Week (UCAW) initiative.  From Nov. 16-20, UCAW helped every high school senior at participating schools complete one viable college application during the school day. Counselors, teachers and AVID coordinators placed special emphasis on students coming from low-income families, and students who would be the first in their family to navigate the application process. 

Brighton High School counselor Amy Mena believes the events planned during College Application Week extended beyond submitting a college application. The Brighton High Counseling department also provided information on completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and invited parents and community members to participate in helping their student prepare for college. Parents attended a Parent Information night on Nov. 18, and teachers wore college gear each Wednesday to facilitate discussions about the importance of a college education. 

“The event is possible due to the collaborative efforts of the administration, faculty, and staff at Brighton High School, as well as students, their families, and volunteers across the country,” Mena said.

According to USHE organization StepUP Utah, while over 90 percent of middle school students say they plan to attend college, only two-thirds of graduating seniors actually apply and attend. Canyons District AVID coordinator Bryn Cook believes events like College Application Week helps bridge the gap between wanting to go to college, and fulfilling all the requirements needed to be accepted. 

“UCAW helps so many students make a positive change for their futures. By helping students understand the application process, and by assisting their families navigate the FAFSA system, we make college a feasible option for all of our seniors,” Cook said.  

Many Utah colleges are also participated in UCAW by waiving their application fees for students participating in the event. Snow College, Dixie State and Southern Utah University all waived application fees, while the  Canyons School District Education Foundation pledged up to $15,000 to cover application fees for students in need of financial assistance. 

According to Cook, counselors and school administrators used this money to help many families apply to college, and she encourages next year’s senior student to talk to their counselors regarding financial help when participating in the 2016 College Application Week. Students planning humanitarian or religious service immediately after high school were also given college preparation guidance during UCAW.

“I encourage all students to apply to college during UCAW. Even if they aren’t planning to attend for a few years, applying to college while still in high school means the college can hold their spot, and students don’t waste time applying to college after they return home. If you apply during high school, you can come home and begin your college education right away,” Cook said.

Additionally, AVID coordinators like Cook, as well as school counselors, recognized the need for multiple options in planning for life after high school. “We consider applying for technical schools and community colleges an equally valid choice for our students. We will help students apply for multiple options, including institutions like the Utah College of Applied Technology, so that students leave high school with several paths to success.” 

According to Canyons School District, 91 percent of the graduating class of 2015 applied for college, and some schools reported a 97 percent application rate. At an October school board meeting, seniors from multiple high schools expressed gratitude for their school counselors, teachers, and administrators in helping them apply and prepare for college.  

“A lot of people don’t have the support at home to go out and visit colleges or even know how to apply, it’s a helpful experience to have that available at school. I really thank you for that,” Hillcrest High student Yolizma Lara said. 

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