Every fall hundreds of North Carolina high school and college professionals help high school seniors across the state complete the application process for college. This year we are expanding College Application Week to a month-long initiative dedicated to college-going activities. FAFSA Day on October 28 will kick off College Application Month. This new College Application Month (CAM) will occur during most of the month of November (October 28 through November 24). Take a look at the general breakdown of the month below with more detailed explanations and suggestions.
College Application Month for Students
- Week 1 – Collect information in preparation, i.e. essays required, information for Residency Determination Service (RDS), interest inventories, etc; research colleges; identify colleges that are accepting application fee waivers; FAFSA completion
- Week 2 – CFNC checklist, RDS completion
- Week 3 – College applications
- Week 4 – Handle any additional questions from colleges or financial aid, begin searching for scholarships
College Application Month for Counselors
- Week 1 – Encourage students to make accounts with CFNC; assist with FAFSA completion
- Week 2 – Provide application check lists, remind students to start collecting all of the required information to make it easy to access the coming weeks; provide interest inventories; identify colleges that are accepting application fee waivers and those that will be waiving the fee the next week; RDS completion
- Week 3 – Assist students with applications for college
- Week 4 – Follow up with students on applications and Student Aid Report (SAR) to ensure all is finished
Preparing for College Application Month at Your School
Get Everyone on Board
- Talk to the principal about setting aside time for students to attend college access mini workshops.
- Get teachers, bus drivers, coaches, cafeteria staff, and all adults in the high school to talk to students about plans after high school.
Coordinate Your Site Team
- Recruit counselors, teachers, and other staff to help plan and implement the events. Forming a team will help share the work and ensure school or organization support for the events. Include student and parent volunteers. Students could earn community service hours for volunteering.
- Have a meeting (or meetings) in September for brainstorming, delegating, and finalizing plans for the month.
- Survey students to find out what they want to know about education beyond high school and plan mini workshops around those topics.
- Contact your local campus-based financial aid office to help with your FAFSA completion event during the school day and evening.
- Organize your event well through pre-planning, logistics, and follow-up. Having the event well-organized by a collaborative team helps it run smoothly.
- Ask local volunteers from the community to support students in the application process.
- Ask college admissions professionals to volunteer with the understanding that their role is not to promote their individual college or university, but to assist students.
- Ask local college students for help. Many college students also need volunteer hours and have a passion for education.
Grow Your Partnerships
- Ask college admissions representatives and/or college access organization representatives to speak to students and parents.
- Hold financial aid mini workshops during the school day for students and in the evening for parents.
- Reach out to recent graduates of the high school, inviting them to present their post-high school success stories with students.
- Reach out to first-generation organizations within college and universities.
Ideas for Each Week:
Build Interest for the Event
- Hold a raffle for a small scholarship or college-related items like a desktop printer, food cards, gas cards. All students completing at least one application are eligible for the drawings. (Solicit donations from community partners).
- Set aside a time during the day for students to complete the FAFSA if they have not already.
- Ask teachers to wear college colors of their alma maters and decorate their classrooms/doors/hallways with their college colors. Hold a contest for the best-decorated homeroom door/room.
- Host a parent/student college application information evening and a financial aid information evening. This is often particularly helpful to parents.
- Send out college trivia questions via Facebook, Twitter, and email; award prizes.
- Hide 30 college mascots and give prizes to the students who find them.
- Create a bulletin board for seniors to indicate their intent after graduation.
- Have the students create a CFNC.org account (if they do not already have one).
- Hold pep rally, senior assembly.
- Hold 30-minute FAFSA workshops during the day so students can rotate through.
Preparing Students to Apply
- Meet with each senior English class and give a College Bound presentation.
- Host a parent/student residency determination and FAFSA workshop.
- Ask senior English teachers provide lessons on college/scholarship essay writing.
- Ask junior English teachers to focus on ACT prep.
- Teachers can assign kids to either job shadow or visit a college.
- Host essay writing workshops.
- Host themed lunch sessions, e.g., “So You Want to go to Art School!” or “I Applied to College: Now What?”.
- Invite college admission representatives to speak to students and parents.
- Invite first-generation college students and/or professionals to host a panel or Q/A on life as a first-generation student.
- Invite recent graduates of the high school to speak to students.
- Encourage seniors to research colleges.
- Utilize the student checklist to ensure students are prepared for applying to colleges.
- Provide students with the list of items needed to complete FAFSA, Residency, and college applications.
- Hold RDS completion mini-workshops.
- Provide listing of campuses that are accepting fee waivers and those campuses that are entirely waiving the application fee for all students.
- Have students review the application process on CFNC.org and payment options if necessary.
- Begin to allow students to apply to colleges so that during week 3 they can just enter submit.
Ensure Logistics Are In Place and Apply
- Secure additional computers for students during this time to assist them with their applications.
- Invite 12th grade English classes to the event.
- Secure the media center/library for students to work on college applications.
- Host open labs during the school free time and call down students who have not yet applied to college but have expressed an interest in applying.
- Provide snacks for the students while they are completing their applications.
- Hold the event in a library with laptops to give volunteers more space to move around and help more students.
- Be sure to have enough volunteers to provide sufficient one-on-one support for each participating student.
- Have the students fill out informational cards indicating the colleges/universities to which they applied so that the high school staff can cross-reference them with requests for transcripts to assure transcripts are being sent. (This can be done through CFNC.org.)
- Contact students that have incomplete applications. Encourage students to finish the application process.
- Make sure students check their Student Aid Report (SAR) received after submitting their FAFSA to ensure that there were no errors.
- Provide support as students begin searching for scholarships by providing online resources and education to not get scammed.
- Don’t Get Hooked campaign