November is National College Application Month

November 9, 2015

Guest Post: Christi Taylor, Director of Statewide Initiatives, Michigan College Access Network

On October 28, President Obama released a proclamation declaring November National College Application Month. The timing couldn’t have been better – Michigan’s fifth annual College Application Week was in full swing – and the President driving home the importance of supporting students and families through the college search and application process was a perfect complement to our campaign. In his proclamation, President Obama mentions first-generation and low-income students specifically, which aligns perfectly with Michigan College Application Week’s purpose: to provide necessary support to all students in Michigan, but especially low-income students, first-generation students, and those who would not have otherwise considered college.

The goal of Michigan College Application Week is simple: for schools to set aside time and space during the school day to give every graduating senior the opportunity to apply to college. As the state coordinator for College Application Week, the Michigan College Access Network provides a variety of resources and templates to help high schools plan and implement their campaign. Support ranges from help with volunteer recruitment, to webinars outlining best practices for scheduling and logistics, to toolkits to aid in building a college-going culture, doing outreach to the media, and engaging local businesses. While we are always happy to provide training and support, the best ideas we see come directly from participating high schools.

Many schools have found wonderful and innovative ways to take this initiative to the next level. This year, our CAW events coincided with Halloween so schools gave out candy and hosted pumpkin decorating contests – all college-themed, of course. Schools decorated their hallways with pennants donated from colleges and with paper pennants decorated by each student showcasing their college plans. College Application Week was also a spirit week in many high schools, with themed days where students dressed up as their future career goals, college t-shirt or hat days for students and staff, and college rivalry days. Schools had Friday celebrations with pizza or cider and donuts for all students who applied to college. Teachers got involved with door-decorating contests and by taking time before classes to share stories and answer questions about their college experiences. Alumni came back to talk about the transition from high school to college and beyond. We were blown away by the effort and creativity we saw during this week.

The purpose of the week, practically, is for every student to get the support they need to apply to college successfully. But College Application Week has grown into an incredible school-wide celebration of the college-going process and the students who undertake it. It is one thing to get students applying, but building a college-going culture at the school, state, and national levels is key to moving the needle on college enrollment and completion outcomes. Our initiative wrapped up on October 30, but the momentum will continue well into National College Application Month. This year, 333 high schools and career tech centers participated in Michigan’s College Application Week. That’s over 40% of schools in Michigan – College Application Week is truly becoming a statewide movement, and it’s great to see a national movement around supporting and celebrating the application process (and next steps, such as Better Make Room, Prior-Prior-Year FAFSA, and action around college affordability) as well.

Check out our Storify and our recent blog post for more great ideas from Michigan’s College Application Week.