Volume 3, Issue 1 - February 2019

In this issue:

Director's Note

State Profile: Virginia

Partner Profile: ACT


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State Coordinator Convening

Save the Date:
May 14 & 15, 2019
Washington, D.C.

Financial Aid Updates and Resources

Last month, the Department of Education released new guidance to financial aid professionals about the type of documents that can be used to verify a student’s income information. Learn more.

The National College Access Network’s E-Learning platform offers a Financial Aid Fundamentals Unit: Interpreting Award Letters and Understanding Affordability. This unit reviews how to carefully assess and interpret award letters and advise students on their options. Free for NCAN members or $59 for nonmembers. Learn more.

National School Counseling Week

The week of February 4-8, 2019 is National School Counseling Week. The goal of the week is to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems. Join the conversation on social media using #NSCW19 and visit the American School Counselor Association website for tips on how to celebrate the week.


Toolkit Tips:

It’s 2019 and it’s time to transition to planning for a new campaign year. State coordinators are encouraged to:

  1. Review your state’s campaign steering committee members and determine if additional representatives need to be included.
  2. Host planning meetings with steering committee.
  3. Prepare for host site registration launch in the spring.
  4. Use ACAC’s certificate template to congratulate schools that participated in 2018.
  5. Celebrate students on social media when they are #accepted to college.

Proud partner of:

Learn more.

Director's Note

Dear friends,

Happy New Year! We are delighted to announce an update regarding the American College Application Campaign. ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning has been a long-standing partner of ACAC. With their focus on closing gaps in equity, opportunity, and achievement for underserved populations, the Center has been perfectly aligned with our efforts and a generous supporter of the national ACAC initiative.

As such, we are thrilled to announce that, as of January 11, 2019, ACAC is officially part of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning. All ACAC team members, Melissa, Joni, and Lisa remain on the ACAC team, as part of the Center, and are looking forward to continuing to support state college application campaigns in the years to come. To learn more about our new home at the Center, please see the press release here.

Now that 2019 is here, our national team and the state campaigns are shifting into planning mode for the 2019 campaign. Our team will be scheduling conference calls with each state to learn of their plans for this year, expansion goals for new sites, and challenges their state may be facing.

Though we are still waiting on some 2018 campaign numbers, we are looking forward to sharing with you the results of our most recent national campaign soon. If your state has not submitted your data, please complete the survey as soon as possible (reach out to me if you need the survey link again!). Final data will be shared in the coming months.

We recently hosted a Twitter chat with ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning on January 31, where we discussed the role mentors play in helping their mentees successfully complete the steps to college. If you missed it, you can read a recap of the chat here.

And finally, we ask state coordinators to mark your calendars for our annual state coordinator’s convening on May 14 and 15 in Washington, D.C.

Thank you for your continued dedication to supporting students as they navigate the path to college. We look forward to watching the state campaigns grow in 2019.

Warm Regards,
Melissa Caperton

State Profile: Virginia

On September 17, 2018, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) convened college presidents from across the state at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). At the same time, Hurricane Florence was heading toward Virginia and, as a result, SCHEV staff, visiting college presidents and VCU students quickly found themselves taking shelter in the basement from the multiple tornadoes spawned by the storm. Making the most of their time, SCHEV began filming #WhyApply to college videos with the “stranded” college presidents.

How did this come to be? Paula Robinson, assistant director of college access and PK-12 outreach for SCHEV and the Virginia College Application Week (VCAW) state coordinator, came prepared. While she didn’t anticipate a series of tornadoes contributing to their efforts, Robinson and Laura Osberger, the SCHEV Communications Associate, knew this annual gathering of presidents was a prime opportunity to request #WhyApply videos.

Shortly after the ACAC National Convening and introduction of the #WhyApply social media campaign for 2018, Robinson met with SCHEV’s communications associate to create a social media plan for Virginia’s College Application Week. They decided to send an email, attaching the provided ACAC template and guidance, to all public college and university presidents and their government relations liaisons. The message informed campus leadership about #WhyApply, how to engage, and requested brief videos.

“After our email request, we received one or two responses directly from presidents, but it was clear our request didn’t really grab their attention,” said Robinson.

The annual presidents’ meeting was around the corner so Robinson and Osberger decided to take advantage of the opportunity and brought #WhyApply signs, a camera (cellphones), and the confidence to ask the presidents to share their #WhyApply to college statements during the evening reception. Confidence soon gave way to convenience when alarms sounded and required all in the building to hunker down in the basement.

“We were all standing around the library basement with students and faculty, waiting for the all clear to resume normal activity, and realized it was the perfect time to ask them.” SCHEV Director Peter Blake wrangled the presidents together, Robinson gave a brief overview of the #WhyApply social media campaign and Virginia’s application initiatives, passed out the sign templates, and asked presidents to write something to share on a video. “No one hesitated to say yes. They were already familiar with the campaign thanks to Laura’s earlier email and, quite frankly, it put their idle hands and minds to good work during the emergency,” said Robinson.

Osberger took charge after that and formatted the videos, collected other photos and signs from SCHEV staff and posted something every hour on September 21, national #WhyApply Day. She was careful to remember to tag the participating colleges and universities to increase chances of retweets.

In addition to engaging college presidents to help encourage more applications, during VCAW partnering high schools took over the @SCHEVnews Twitter feed. SCHEV also posted a college application tip each day of the week and awarded schools with “Best Social Media” awards using campaign hashtags # IApplied, #IAppliedVA and #VCAW. A simple graphic of an award ribbon was created and “pinned” on the social media post. Robinson then emailed the host site coordinators and site social media contacts to celebrate and recognize the best use of a GIF, best post and reply thread and the site with the most posts/tweets during VCAW.

Robinson’s final advice to other states is to make a realistic plan. “Not only does it help you organize your work and engage others, it helps you to be prepared for unexpected opportunities.” Fortunately, you don’t need a weather emergency alert to engage your constituents. All you need is a little planning, organization, and creativity to leverage the support of state-level leaders with your college application initiative.

While the winds raged through the area and the evening reception was cancelled, all at the SCHEV meeting remained safe and out of harm’s way.

Virginia develops a communications timeline for all of their 1-2-3 Go!: Virginia’s Three Steps to College events to help make sure that everything aligns and serves as an efficient use of time and resources. Learn more about Virginia’s College Application Week.

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Partner Profile: ACT

At ACT, we believe that every person should have the ability to go as far as their talent and effort can take them. As social inequality has increased in the U.S., so have inequities in opportunities to learn and thrive for students growing up in families from underserved backgrounds, including for those who would be the first in their family to graduate from college. ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning focuses on closing gaps in equity, opportunity, and achievement for underserved populations by furthering ACT’s non-profit mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success.

As part of that work, we are delighted to have the American College Access Campaign become part of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning. The Center has long been a supporter of ACAC’s mission and work, and with its addition to our portfolio, together we will be able to continue to double down on ACT’s mission of education and workplace success for all while honoring the incredible work being done by ACAC. We believe deeply in the work that ACAC has done to engage and empower students on their college-going journey. In fact, in 2017, the Center, ACAC, and partners from the National College Access Network, Better Make Room, and American University’s Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success joined together to launch Steps2College in an effort to highlight all the major milestones students face on their path to college.

The Center, which launched in 2016, is actively engaged in many of the priority areas that ACAC focuses on. For instance, in addition to the Steps2College partnership, the Center has done a number of research projects that examine the experiences of underserved learners, including their access to technology, working and learning experiences, and racial data disaggregation. The Center continues to explore research in areas that affect students in their high school experiences and as they transition to postsecondary. By grounding our efforts in data, we are able to not only identify issues, concerns, and opportunities, but we are able to ensure that strong recommendations for improvement are made – and work toward those improvements.

In June 2018, the Center hosted a national summit focused on equity and social and emotional learning (SEL) that explored those skills in the context of the transition to postsecondary education. The Center continues to engage around SEL in ways that are critical to the success of students transitioning to post-high school. We are also exploring innovation and new technologies in the education landscape that have an impact on our students, including adaptive learning. Our work in the areas of working and learning acknowledges the reality that many students, in both high school and college, are working while going to school and what that means for the college-going process. As we move into the future, we will continue to deepen our efforts in these and other areas, while working closely with ACAC to ensure the ongoing success and growth potential of the campaign.

With ACAC’s integration into the Center, the critical work that ACAC does will continue, partnerships will be strengthened, and together we will look for further opportunities to ensure that all students are able to make their college dreams a reality.

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