Why a Dedicated Week to College Applications is Necessary

I Applied stickersThe kick-off of another successful Michigan College Application Week (CAW) has me thinking back to 2008, when I was a high school senior and a soon-to-be first generation college student who had no idea how to begin researching and applying to college. What if my high school would have dedicated an entire week to helping me and my fellow seniors fill out college applications, learn about financial aid and scholarships, and really dive into the ins and outs of applying to college? And what if they would have spent that week celebrating the entire college-going process, like they celebrate homecoming or prom?

Seeing nearly 300 schools prepare for College Application Week this year has been so exciting. This week, thousands of seniors (many of whom are first-generation like me, or low-income, or unsure whether they are college material) will be guided through the application process rather than trying to figure it out (and sometimes failing) alone. This is why we do Michigan College Application Week: applying to college is hard. It is not intuitive and it is not always happening organically within schools, at least not in a way that reaches students who aren’t sure whether they should be going to college at all. It doesn’t take much to discourage a frustrated, at-risk student from applying—one confusing question or missing social security number or too-expensive application fee is enough, especially without a support system. MI College Application Week ensures there is a school wide and statewide (and even a nationwide—with all fifty states participating this year) support system in place.

CAW meme1Logistically, the importance of CAW is a no-brainer. Setting aside time and space during the school day is the best way to break down barriers ensuring every senior applies to college and has the help they need to do so. But its real importance is in its ability to change the culture within a school. Dedicating a week, allocating class time, and getting the entire school involved in CAW shows that learning how to get to college is just as important as learning math or English. Taking the time to help every senior apply either before or during the week shows that the label “not college material” simply does not apply to any student in the building. And this will trickle down: juniors and underclassmen will hear all the college talk and watch seniors being supported and applauded as they apply, and they will begin to anticipate their opportunity to apply to college.

MI College Application Week helps introduce postsecondary planning as a systemic, integral part of a school’s operations. If it is constantly reinforced and celebrated, students from every grade will begin to see college not as a privilege reserved only for some kids but as an expectation for all kids and a concrete, attainable goal. College is for everyone.

Congratulations to all of our host sites, volunteers, and of course students on the thousands of applications will be completed during MI College Application Week 2014. Already looking forward to next year—mark your calendars for October 26 – 30, 2015!

Christ Taylor headshot 2013Author: Christi Taylor, director of statewide initiatives for the Michigan College Access Network

Posted: November 3, 2014

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