The American College Application Campaign exists because we know that navigating the college application process can be confusing and overwhelming for students. Our state coordinators and school counselors have told us that this has been especially true for the past two years, and the data backs that up. The National Student Clearinghouse recently released fall 2021 undergraduate enrollment rates which show a decline by 3.1% or 465,300 students compared to fall 2020, and a two-year decline of 6.6% or 1,025,600 students compared to fall 2019.
With fewer students enrolling in college, school-wide and community-wide strategies for helping students pursue education and training beyond high school are even more critical than before. Though the pandemic has required state campaigns and host sites to be flexible in how we reach students, the core commitment to ensure every graduating senior has the opportunity to engage in the college application process and has a plan for life after high school remains the same.
Join me in thanking ACAC state campaign coordinators for their continued leadership to work across school and community lines to build supports and establish a statewide college-going culture. We also want to thank and celebrate school counselors who lead ACAC efforts on the ground in schools. As we await the data from ACAC state application campaigns, we know that this academic year has been anything but normal. Yet, we also know that the school counselors at ACAC host sites remained committed to ensuring all students receive the time and space during the school day to complete their college applications with the assistance of caring adults. We look forward to reviewing the data to better understand how that work happened in our new normal.
You can join ACAC in thanking school counselors Feb. 7-11 as we celebrate National School Counseling Week 2022 (#NSCW22). The week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, highlights the tremendous effect school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career.
Thank you, school counselors and ACAC state coordinators! We are “Better Together” in achieving our goals to support students on their education journey.
Lisa King, director
#IApplied: Students share their reasons for attending college
Compiled by Adrienne Enriquez, communications and state/national trainer consultant for the American College Application Campaign
This article was first published on ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning’s blog in January 2022.
November was National College Application Month, a month when many high school seniors are busy applying to college. In celebration of their efforts, we asked current college students and recent graduates to reflect on their own experiences. They shared their thoughts about what motivated them to attend college and what kept them going when things got tough.
“I thought I was nothing and no one. I thought I was never going to amount to anything. And, literally, college was a complete door opener for me. It’s giving me knowledge, and no one can take that from me. It’s going to give me a career that gives me financial stability, and that gives me longevity and then I can financially support my family. College is really life changing.”
- Krista Fortenberry, Class of 2022, Linn-Benton Community College (Oregon)
“I understood that continuing my education beyond high school would open many more doors for me and my family because I am a first-generation college student. As corny as it may sound, college has fueled my need to make connections. Whether it's for an internship, employment, group project, thanking the dining hall workers, or reaching out to a present professor, there's something for everyone. Self-advocacy and building connections opened doors for me in high school, but college put that into practice.”
- Garrinecia Singleton, Class of 2022, Rhodes College (Tennessee)
Read what other students had to say on the blog.
Student and Family Surveys for COVID Melt Strategy Project
ACAC and San Diego State University Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment, through the COVID-19 Enrollment and Persistence Strategy Grant, are surveying the high school class of 2022 to better understand how the pandemic is impacting their postsecondary plans. Please share this link https://cepa.chat/Covid-Survey with your students. No student level identifiable information is being collected on this survey.
We will share what we learn in early spring 2022 so that college advisors and school counselors can use this information to provide more informed guidance to the class of 2022 for their college and career transitions.
We are also seeking parents/caregivers who would be willing to answer a few questions to help us understand how the pandemic is impacting their student's future plans, especially what they hope to do after high school graduation.
Please share this link https://cepa.chat/Parent-Survey with families so they can take the survey. Their feedback will help us improve the guidance student's need to successfully make their post high school plans.
Both surveys will remain open until the end of February 2022. Please reach out to Laura Owen, Executive Director for the SDSU Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment at [email protected] if you have any questions.
Celebrating Three Years at ACT
ACAC began in a single North Carolina high school in 2005. As most good ideas do, it quickly spread through the state, then the region and finally the country. When the national network was born, it was housed at the American Council on Education. Three years ago, the program found a new home at ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning.
As we reflect on this anniversary, we know there is much to celebrate about the move, including access to additional resources and expertise. Recently, we’ve been particularly grateful to have quick and ready access to student voices through ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning’s blog. We’d like to invite you to join us and peek at what college students are saying.
Just-in-time College Advising
By: Bryan Contreras, vice president, myOptions®
I was making my final sweep, late one afternoon, doing my best to tidy up our team’s common space where we counseled with our students. A student’s silhouette caught my eye against the setting sun’s glare through the window. He sat at a computer, completely focused with a stare of concern and worry on his face. I knew help was needed. It was late in the day, late in the week, and late in the year for college applications. Tomas looked at me, “Mister, I am not sure what I need to do to get my application in? I feel behind and so late in the game that maybe it’s not worth applying now. I hate to bother you.” I walked up and glanced over his shoulder, “Let’s take a look at where you are.”
For those who counsel one-on-one or one-on-many, it is critical for us to keep a pulse on the overwhelming stress students experience who feel “late” to the college application process senior year. Late winter is the right time of year for counselors to be intentional and bring into focus those students who may need our support and extra level of care.
Why does this stress kick in for students? Well, as some students start to celebrate early decisions and acceptances across the school, others may feel like it is too late for them to apply. This is far from the reality for most and we must remind students that “early acceptances” represent a small percentage of students. There are many articles on early decision and early action (The College Post breaks it down easily for your reference) but the headline for students is: only about 25% of colleges offer early decision and 38% of colleges offer early action. There are lots of options still available.
Often just sitting with students to provide reassurance that “now is their time” and they are not late can help reduce their anxiety. So, remember to take time to remind students that this process is not a race. In fact, for students who seek out counselors and are more patient in the application cycle, taking this extra time leads to a better college fit for them. And better college fit, as we know, leads to greater student success.
After I met with Tomas, I realized that there were probably more students like him. I also understood that the stress students carry can include the fact that they do not want to bother us or bring more work to us because they feel like they have fallen behind. I prioritized a list of students that I thought might need help. Fortunately, our team used a variety of resources to monitor students’ tasks that we assigned. This allowed me to help students, including those who had not met with a counselor in fall semester, had yet to request their high school transcript for applications, had not logged into their college planning account for more than two weeks, and did not have a final college application list.
The school day is packed with meetings, counseling, and crisis interventions, so with my priority list of students I was able to advocate for time with our school leadership to make sure follow up was built into my schedule during the last few weeks of February.
Finally, my time with Tomas that late winter afternoon reminded me of a concept I first learned from the book SWITCH. The Heath brothers do a fantastic job breaking down why it is so hard to make “lasting change” in companies, communities, and in our lives. As a counselor, my takeaways from SWITCH are:
- students may not yet have developed academic behaviors required to be successful in the college application process; and
- like adults, students can become overwhelmed when they try to visualize or make a plan to reach a big goal.
The Heath brothers share some strategies to help with making a plan to reach a big goal, which they call Shaping the Path and Shrinking the Change.
I needed to break down Tomas’ steps in the college application process. I gave him specific tasks and he created his own completion deadlines. (Here are some quick start guides for students to create a myOptions profile and steps to build balanced college list.) I committed to checking in with him weekly to check on his progress. With all this in mind, I knew that my time with other students would require help to “shape the path” towards a complete college application, but they would also need me to “shrink the change” by chunking out tasks.
Counselors and teachers are stretched, especially this year. The traditional college application stress students experience has been amplified over the past two years. The role counselors play in helping them to understand how to manage stress can unlock their potential and success. So, three steps you can take to help students like Tomas:
- encourage the student;
- take inventory and champion for time; and
- shape the Path. Shrink the Change.
For more resources to help guide your students, check out the free student college planning resources and time management tips at myOptions with these two great student advice blogs: Staying Organized in Your College Search and Making Time for Your College Application.