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2015 January 6 - 09:24 pm

More High Schools Devoting Time to College Applications

American College Application Campaign Grows Across Country

WASHINGTON (AP) — On an ordinary day, Lourdes Hernandez and her District of Columbia classmates in Advanced Placement English literature would have devoted these 85 minutes to analyzing “Wuthering Heights.”

But they set aside Emily Bronte’s 19thcentury novel one morning last month at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus, instead spending precious class time on an urgent task: applying to college.

Hernandez sifted through paperwork on various local colleges that her teacher handed out and sought to hone her application essay.

“The hardest part is doing the personal statement,” the 19-year-old said. “Sometimes you don’t know what to say, what the college is looking for. You have to be spontaneous. You have to be unique.”

This public school on 16th Street in Northwest Washington is one of two dozen citywide that spent class time last month on applications, part of a growing national movement to help students who face disadvantages take a crucial step on the way to college.

Whatever else schools do to get students ready for college, one thing is certain: Those who don’t apply won’t get in.

The American College Application Campaign, sponsored by the American Council on Education, aims to eliminate that barrier. The campaign began in 2005 at a high school in Siler City, N. C. Within a few years, hundreds of schools in that state were participating. Soon the Lumina and Kresge foundations, among others, were providing funds to spread the idea.

Organizers estimate the campaign last fall helped 153,000 students from 2,500 high schools apply to college. This fall, about 4,000 schools nationwide are participating.

Why spend class time on applications? Bobby Kanoy, an educator from North Carolina who directs the campaign, said many students from low-income families, especially those whose parents did not attend college, do not have enough support at home. Students might not have regular computer access. They might have parttime jobs or family obligations. They might have questions about the process for which parents or siblings have no answer.

Even for students in privileged circumstances, applying to college can be daunting. For those who come from more modest means, it just might seem impossible.

“There’s just too many roadblocks,” Kanoy said. “That’s why it’s important to do it during the school day.”

District education officials say the campaign, called College Application Week, is now in its third year in the city. What started at eight schools in 2012 spread to 13 last fall and now reaches 24.

The city also has taken another key step to facilitate applications: Students in public high schools were able to take the SAT for free during the school day.

This year applying during English classes was a new wrinkle in the application campaign at the Columbia Heights school. Officials said they tried to have students apply during lunch last year, but few participated.

On Nov. 5, AP English teacher Joe Talarico roamed his class to hand out paper applications for the University of the District of Columbia, Montgomery College and Northern Virginia Community College.

“Anyone need NOVA?” he asked.

“NOVA applications?” Hands shot up. He had paperwork for qualified students to obtain fee waivers that would enable them to apply to college for free, and he dispensed stickers and rubber bracelets marked “#iAPPLIED.”

Talarico, who graduated from Georgetown University in 2006, said he views guidance on college applications as part of his job. He helps proofread essays for students who are applying to college. He said that he gives some essays for proofreading to his mother, who also is an English teacher.

Talarico said he preaches attention to detail. “Make sure every comma is correct,” he says.

Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com

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