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School-Day College Application Campaign Expands

In an effort to encourage more first-generation, low-income students to consider higher education, a growing number of high schools are carving out time during the school day for seniors to fill out college applications. 

In 2005, the first "College Application Day" was held at a North Carolina high school and now 4,000 high schools in 50 states this fall will participate in The American College Application Campaign. For a day, week, or even the month of November, teams of volunteers come into schools to answer students' questions as they complete college applications online.

"For these kids, there isn't anybody at home that has navigated the process before," says Bobby Kanoy, the director of the campaign and a former associate dean of education at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Whether a mentor is from a community-based organization, the business community, or a college admissions office, students need an adult to help them through the application, he says.

Last year through the campaign, 153,000 students from 2,500 high schools submitted nearly 220,000 applications, according to Kanoy.

The campaign assists individual states set up steering committees comprised of representatives from K-12, community colleges, public universities, and private colleges. Those committees then select pilot high schools to roll out the program and add new schools each year. For instance, New York started in 2013 with eight schools in its pilot and expanded the program to 140 this year.

After the initial committees are formed, the campaign provides training to the coordinators in the pilot high schools. The high school seniors, most of whom are eligible for application-fee waivers, are given checklists in advance so they are prepared with their personal statements and other information needed to fill out the forms with the volunteers.

The process is pretty simple and affordable, notes Kanoy. "It doesn't take very much to do this," he says. But without time blocked out during the day and encouragement from caring adults, some of these students may not apply, Kanoy explains.

The vision is to expand the concept to 80 percent of high schools within seven years.

The campaign is sponsored by the American Council on Education and supported by various nonprofits and philanthropies, including the Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The Lumina and Gates foundations respectively support  coverage of P-16 alignment and college- and career-ready standards in Education Week.)

On November 1, President Obama proclaimed November as National College Application Month.

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