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The City Journals

College Application Week proves successful at Connection High School

Feb 03, 2017 11:18AM ● By Aspen Perry

A few of the students who participated in UCAW at Connection High School. (Aspen Perry/City Journals)

By Aspen Perry | [email protected]

In December, Connection High School participated in Utah College Application Week (UCAW) for the third consecutive year, a program designed to help the increasing number of students applying for college each year.


According to Step Up Utah, despite 90 percent of junior high students stating they plan to attend college, in reality when that time of their life arrives, roughly two-thirds end up actually attending. Completing college applications is a major hurdle for many students.


The purpose of UCAW, according to Heidi Nielsen, counselor at Connection High School, “is to prepare students, particularly 12th graders for college.”


Offering a week dedicated to focusing on their future also reduces anxiety some students feel regarding taking the next step after graduation.


“The transition from high school graduation to the next step is difficult. At times, society forgets this difficult transition. Senior students have warranted anxieties about that next step. UCAW best supports students by allowing the students one or two weeks to have support with these transitions,” said Jonny Matich, an English teacher at Connection High School.


Both counselors and teachers agree UCAW sets up the transition by helping students become aware of the options available to them and the process to apply, which in turn eases pressure students feel about what they should do next.


“When UCAW begins, I see a huge burden being lifted off many of the senior students,” Matich said.  


Fellow counselor Nielsen agrees, “Students are more eager to apply since UCAW was implemented because students are more aware of the process.”


According to Step Up, in 2013 the pilot program for UCAW included three school districts and eight high schools. In its second year, UCAW saw 10,000 senior participants in 15 districts and 49 high schools. By 2015, Step Up reported over 21,000 applications were submitted from students in 25 districts and 83 schools with 96 percent of those students claiming UCAW increased their understanding of the application process.


In an effort to best help students make sense of a great deal of information regarding possibilities after graduation, Connection High School, held multiple breakout sessions, for all 10th- through 12th-grade students, geared toward information and guidance for completing and continuing their education.


The sessions included information regarding Knowledge Base Diplomas, various programs and certifications offered through the School of Applied Technology at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), certification programs in the medical field, as well as, various associates degrees offered through SLCC.


“UCAW affords opportunities that many students would be unaware of if it weren’t for UCAW activities,” Matich said. 


In addition to the breakout sessions, Nielsen said, “We also have lunch activities for the students who participate, where they can learn more about college and win college swag.”


Holding UCAW in December appears to also serve as a motivator for students who may have to raise grades or complete more credits before they are eligible to apply, while they still have time to do so.


Thus far, Nielsen and fellow counselor Michelle Glaittli, have already assisted 22 students in applying for college and will continue to do so through May, as more students become ready for the application step.


Of the 22 that have already applied, the majority applied to SLCC, Dixie, or Snow College, with one student applying to Southern Utah University.


For students with financial insecurity, the Granite Education Foundation tries to alleviate any financial concerns by offering to cover application fees when a student is unable. 


Connection High School is at 509 E. 3900 South. It was formerly called Granite Peaks.