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High school students beginning the college application process may find themselves overcome with excitement and fear as they narrow down the schools they hope to attend.
Many colleges ask students to fill out extensive forms and send supplemental documents, including college essays, letters of recommendation, and high school transcripts. After a while, the process can prove challenging for students to stay ahead of each school’s unique requirements — and expensive.
According to the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), students usually pay an average of $50 to submit one college application.
Thankfully, College Application Week delivers a cost-effective way for high school students to apply to their dream colleges and universities for free. If you’re wondering how you can participate in this year’s College Application Week, this guide will break down everything you need to know.
What Is College Application Week?
The American College Application Campaign (ACAC) — led by the ACT Center for Equity in Learning — held the first College Application Week in 2004.
Since 2020, all 50 states and Washington D.C. now host College Application Week during select dates from September to November, serving over 3.69 million students applying to college for the first time.
The ACAC’s mission is to close the higher education gaps for first-generation college students, students of color, and individuals from low-income backgrounds.
During College Application Week, high school students and their families can learn more about attending college, acquire resources and advisement regarding financial aid, and receive one-to-one assistance from their guidance counselors.
However, the ACAC’s greatest appeal is the waived application fees, entitling students to apply to as many colleges as they’d like without paying to submit their forms.
Students interested in learning more about College Application Week should speak with their guidance counselors or search their state’s ACAC website for additional program information and prospective dates.
Diversity Matters in Higher Education
Future progress and prosperity in the United States greatly depend on removing barriers that make college inaccessible to diverse and low-income students. However, it’s important to note that diversity extends beyond race and social status, encompassing gender, disabilities, age, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation.
Closing the diversity gap is critical in higher education. For one thing, an inclusive student body delivers enriched learning experiences and collaboration, more opportunities for minorities to pursue advanced degrees, and an enhanced multicultural workforce.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the unemployment rate for graduates with a bachelor’s degree was 2.7% less than for those with only a high school diploma in 2021. Additionally, bachelor’s degree holders made approximately $525 more in median weekly wages than high school graduates.
Studies have also demonstrated over the last 30 years that college graduates are 10% more likely to vote in elections and hold leadership roles than those who didn’t finish high school.
While the poverty rate for people under 18 reached 16.1% in 2020, opening doors for underprivileged and underrepresented students to receive a college education has become paramount.
How to Prepare for College Application Week
Schools participating in College Application Week will inform students what they need for their applications. Most likely, students will complete their applications online or fill out the Common Application, which allows them to apply to several schools with one form.
Read through each school’s application requirements carefully. Basic information may include personal details, academic history, your grade point average, extracurricular activities, and awards. You may also need to submit a high school resume.
Meanwhile, additional requirements will probably include the following:
- SAT or ACT exam scores
- High school transcript
- Financial aid information, in which you’ll need to fill out a separate FAFSA form
- A personal statement explaining how a particular school and curriculum will help you achieve your goals
- Letter of recommendation
Whether asked from you or not, one or more letters of recommendation can improve your chances of being accepted to college. Consider asking a favorite teacher or mentor familiar with your work and study ethic if they can provide a character reference for you.
The First Step to a Bright Future
Submitting your college applications is the first step toward a successful future. Everyone deserves the chance to foster their strengths, skills, and interests — and higher education aims to help students from all backgrounds find their purpose and make a difference in the world.