As the year ends, we continue to support students in their college journey. The mission of our work has stayed true, but we find ourselves adjusting or re-imagining our regular programming. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for your commitment to students in your state. Thank you for your commitment to education.
Though our state college application campaigns that typically occur in the fall have come to an end, we know the work is not done. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Common App data is showing an 8 percent decline in number of applications and a 16 percent decline in both applications who requested fee waivers and those who would be first-generation college students. ACAC state campaigns are preparing to report their results, but we anticipate similar numbers. To that end, ACAC is encouraging our state campaigns to continue supporting high schools in hosting college application completion events to remind students it’s not too late to apply.
Most recently, both houses of the U.S. Congress designated November as National College Application Month to remind students that they can’t let the pandemic cause further disruptions and barriers to their college-going journey. On November 19, 2020, Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced the measure in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, Representative Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky) introduced it. The full resolutions can be found here (Senate) and here (House).
During National College Application Month, ACAC cohosted an #IApplied Twitter chat on November 17 with Common App, Get Schooled, myOptions and Reach Higher to remind students that planning for their future, no matter what obstacles or challenges faced, must not stop. You can check out the Twitter conversation here. Additionally, we are sharing a few #IApplied blogs via ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning blog series. The first of the series is featured in today’s newsletter.
Our resources remain available year-round to those organizing application events. We can’t stress enough the need for school districts and community members to talk to students about the importance of education beyond high school, to organize activities – whether in person or virtual – to support students through the college-going process, to celebrate the important milestones for the Class of 2021, and to provide a sense of normalcy amid uncertainty.
Lisa King, director
Meeting Students On Their Timeline
Authored by: Adrienne Enriquez, national trainer and communications manager, American College Application Campaign
Since its beginning, the American College Application Campaign has maintained a focus on ensuring that all students have the tools and assistance they need to apply to college. We’ve emphasized the need to provide in-school support. We’ve highlighted the importance of reaching those students who may be underrepresented in higher education. And we’ve prioritized the traditional 4-year college timeline in an effort to keep as many doors open for students as possible.
At the same time, the initiative strives to assist and celebrate all students who make a plan for education after high school. That includes students who apply to and attend trade schools and community colleges just as much as those who matriculate at a 4-year college or university. While a fall campaign may help most students make a plan for life after high school, we know there is still room to improve. We must activate our commitment to creativity and flexibility as we strive to meet all students where they are and on the timeline that works for them.
For a variety of reasons, applying to college in the fall simply doesn’t fit the needs of some students – or, frankly, some institutions. For example, what many students may not know, in nearly every state, there exists at least one trade school or community college whose application for fall enrollment isn’t released a full year in advance. While ACAC will continue to advocate for our systemically underserved students to apply to college on the same timeline as their most privileged peers, there are always students who begin their senior year unsure about their path forward, while others who believe in October that college isn’t their path, but who find a spark of inspiration by winter or spring. We know that no matter the time of year, school counselors and college access professionals consistently step in to guide students on their journeys, and ACAC applauds that commitment.
COVID-19 has disrupted the college-going journey. Reports from the field suggest that fewer students may have been ready to submit applications in the fall. These students may, however, be ready to set their plans in motion this spring. Have you considered hosting a spring event to catch this group of students? We know that one benefit of hosting a fall campaign is consolidating much of the required work of counselors into one specific timeframe. A spring event may very well harness that same benefit while you strive to meet the unique needs of a diverse community of students.
A few thoughts to consider as you plan:
- Identify students who need additional support. (Read this month’s Counselor Corner for some good ideas on how to do this).
- Your college application campaign does not have to be a big production. If you are helping students complete their application forms, you are hosting a successful event. It doesn’t have to be a full month, week, or even day – it’s about setting aside dedicated time to help students accomplish this task.
- Partner with your local community college. During your fall event, you likely have students applying to multiple colleges and universities. This may require offering multiple presentations or hosting several college visits. The spring provides an opportunity to focus on your relationship with the community college that serves your district and help students take the next steps to enroll.
- Celebrate! Every student who makes a plan for their future deserves recognition. Social media shout outs, yard and locker signs, and #IApplied banners go a long way.
As we close out the year and look forward to 2021, we invite you to host a spring event to support and celebrate those students whose plans to continue their education after high school are now solidifying. Help them turn their new #WhyApply reasons into an #IApplied moment.
Student Spotlight: Ariana Lopez
#IApplied: University of Redlands Freshman Reflects on College Application Support
Authored by: Adrienne Enriquez, national trainer and communications manager, American College Application Campaign
This is the first of three blogs featuring current college students who participated in American College Application Campaign events this year. This blog features Ariana Lopez, a freshman at University of Redlands and 2020 graduate of Fontana High School in Fontana, California.
Ariana Lopez is in the middle of her first semester at University of Redlands, where she’s taking Chinese philosophy, along with contemporary literature, her first-year seminar, and a peer mentoring class called Students Together Empowering Peers. Ultimately, Ariana plans to major in psychology. For now, she’s enjoying the variety in her classes. She’s been saying, “I want to learn more. I want to do cool things,” since she was in sixth grade and decided that college would be her end goal.
Read more on the blog.
Saying Goodbye to 2020 with the Class of 2021 in Focus
Authored by: Dr. Nick Sproull, director of k-12 engagement, myOptions®
Under ordinary circumstances, the annual holiday break offers a much needed respite from the pressures and stresses that accompany Early Decision and Early Action deadlines. But nothing about this fall semester has been ordinary! So even as we take time for ourselves to recharge in the coming weeks, it is important to remember the Class of 2021 needs our help now more than ever.
Now is the time to check in with students who applied this fall and celebrate with those who received good news and support those who may not have received the outcome they wanted. They may need help resetting their expectations or even submitting additional applications at other institutions. Likewise, it is also a good time to ask which students haven’t been served yet and how we can help expand their postsecondary opportunities. This may mean encouraging students who haven’t applied anywhere to submit applications to other colleges on their list including community colleges or trade schools. It may mean touching base with students to be sure they’re on track with filing their FAFSA. Or it could mean checking in on students to be sure they are not at risk of the dreaded senior slump!
As of November 2, 2020, data from the Common Application showed the number of college applications from first-gen students and those eligible for fee waivers are each down by 16% compared to last year.
- Do you have any students who fall into one or both of these categories?
- Do you have the tools you need to help you find students who may not have applied anywhere yet?
- Do you have the tools to know which students have not requested a transcript?
- Have those students developed their college lists and begun gathering the materials they need for their applications?
The end of the semester presents a wonderful opportunity to review your entire class and identify students that need your help. The most important message to students who have not yet been admitted anywhere: It’s not too late!
Another critical way of helping keep the Class of 2021 in focus is supporting students as they submit the FAFSA and other financial aid documents. According to the latest data from the Office of Federal Student Aid, FAFSA completion rates are down about 16% compared to previous years – a number strikingly similar to the data from the Common Application!
- Do you know what percentage of your class has completed their FAFSA? The Form Your Future FAFSA Tracker can help!
- Do you have a way of knowing which of your students have begun their FAFSA?
- Or how far along in the process they may be?
Having visibility to these important milestones is vitally important to supporting student success!
Avoiding the Senior Slump
Each year, stories of students facing consequences from senioritis abound. You may feel like a broken record, but every senior class needs to be reminded that senior coursework not only counts for admission purposes, it also helps prepare students for a successful transition to postsecondary education.
Shortly after the new year, you may begin receiving requests from students and admission offices for 7th semester transcripts and mid-year reports. Depending on how many students you support and how many applications they submitted, this could mean hundreds of documents and student records. Do you have an efficient and cost-effective way of submitting these documents? Do you have an easy way of knowing whether the documents you’ve sent have arrived?
Using Data and Tools to help Maintain Focus on the Class of 2021
This can be an overwhelming process to manage - especially without access to effective tools, data, and resources for you and your students. This is where myOptions and myOptions Encourage can help! Through the free myOptions platform, students can keep mentors and school educators up to date on where they’ve applied, whether they’ve begun submitting the FAFSA, and how far along they are in those respective processes. And through the free myOptions Encourage platform, mentors and educators can collaborate with students in the college planning process, collaborate and monitor their progress, and gather critical reports to help prioritize your students and their needs. At Encourage’s core we have also included college application management tools, like the ability to send documents electronically to colleges and universities on behalf of students at no cost along with the ability to see when those documents have been downloaded by the admissions offices.
As we say goodbye to 2020, don’t throw out the lessons we’ve learned along the way. These tools and strategies for supporting students will not only help bring the Class of 2021 to the finish line, they will also help when shifting our focus to the Class of 2022. Until then, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] and let me know how our team can support you as you support your students!