CAPITOL HEIGHTS – Four high schools in Prince George’s County are participating in a statewide pilot program with the goal of increasing the number of students applying and gaining acceptance into college. “We want to enforce the mentality of applying to colleges, get them started early. We want to establish a culture of applying to […]
CAPITOL HEIGHTS – Four high schools in Prince George’s County are participating in a statewide pilot program with the goal of increasing the number of students applying and gaining acceptance into college.
“We want to enforce the mentality of applying to colleges, get them started early. We want to establish a culture of applying to college,” said Isaiah Ellis, a college access administrative aide for the Maryland State Department of Education. “We anticipate 11th graders seeing 12th graders go through the application process, then 10th graders seeing 11th graders. The upperclassmen can help the lower classmen.”
Central High School, Suitland High School, Bladensburg High School and Potomac High School will participate in the pilot program. Last week, seniors were allotted time during school to apply to college and scholarships as part of the college campaign program. Later in the school year, the program will provide guidance for students applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Finally, schools will host a ‘Decision Day’ in May to celebrate students’ acceptance into colleges.
“We are not just telling students they need to apply to college, but we are offering them an environment in which they can do it correctly with support,” said Edrika Hall, coordinator of the program in the county. “The campaign is about more than just completing an application, it is about students taking the steps to solidify their plans for life after high school graduation and applying to colleges that will be a good fit for them.”
Last week at Central High School, students sat at different stations within the school’s career office. Some were applying to colleges, some met with an admissions officer for on-the-spot-acceptance to Virginia Union University and some were meeting with First Generation College Bound Inc., an organization based in Laurel that helps first generation students go to college.
Jasmine Campbell, a senior at Central High School, said allowing students to have time for college applications during school is helpful.
“Some people go home and just forget about it, or they’re not focused at home and won’t have the help,” said Campbell, who aspires to work in broadcast journalism. “Just being in the career center, it helps me. They help me through the process of the application, showing me what to say, guiding me through the essays.”
Working on applications alone can be stressful, Campbell said, so being able to work alongside others in the career center makes the process more comfortable.
“You’ve got to meet deadlines, you’ve got to have the right paperwork and scores, the money to go,” Campbell said. “The guidance of the schools is helpful. It makes it easier than it would be yourself.”
Atem Tazi, also a senior at Central, said the number of students at the career center shocked her.
“Last year, you had people with 4.0 cumulative GPAs go to Prince George’s Community College, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t by choice, it was just because the application process was just not there,” Tazi said. “I’m so shocked, I have friends that have already been accepted for up to seven schools, and it’s not even December yet. That’s amazing, and it’s all thanks to the counseling department at this school.”
At bigger schools like Suitland High, one-on-one attention from counselors and teachers may be harder to come by, said Hall.
“You may have three or four teachers who may push you to go to college, but you won’t have them go with the process with you,” said Desmond Oliver, a senior at Suitland High. “Seeing how the world is, I have to go to school. It’s not something I have to sit and think about, it’s like, I have to act on that now.”
Oliver, who is interested in business administration and the restaurant business, said he could start his own business, but having a college degree would make it easier because he would be better equipped to ask for a loan.
Ellis said the campaign also aims to get students excited about applying to college.
“The schools are responsible for their own marketing,” Ellis said. “They should have fun with it, they know their audience.”
Central invited a motivational speaker to talk to students and hosted a college fair prior to the college application campaign week, said Doreen Hogans, a counselor at Central. The school is also offering free Chipotle lunches to students who have applied to three schools by Dec. 8.
At Suitland, teachers decorated their doors and wore t-shirts with the colleges they attended. John McDaniels, a teacher at Suitland said teachers had an open-door policy so students could talk with their mentors about their college experiences.
Twenty-one high schools in Baltimore City, Cecil, Dorchester, Prince George’s, Somerset, Washington and Wicomico counties are participating in the pilot college application campaign program. Last year, Bladensburg High, Potomac High and Suitland High participated in a similar college application program.