A step toward college

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—Photo by MARY MALONE SHS seniors like Nichol Reed, center, and Taylor Ward, right, participated in College Application Week. Jessica Miley, left, enrollment specialist with Lewis and Clark State College, helped out on Wedneday at SHS answering questions the students had about the process.

SANDPOINT — Sandpoint High School seniors are taking advantage of College Application Week, which runs Oct. 31 through Nov. 4.

"It's just a really, really great experience for students," said Amanda Ott, SHS college and career mentor. "Even if they are not going to school, if they want to take a year off, just to have the experience of filling out an application. And I think for a lot of kids it opens up the door to going to college — that it is an option."

Throughout College Application Week, which is sponsored by the State Board of Education, SHS English teachers allowed seniors class time to go to the library and fill out applications. The students were given support by Ott, SHS counselor Jeralyn Mire and representatives from North Idaho College, University of Idaho and Lewis and Clark State College. On Wednesday, Jessica Miley, enrollment specialist with LCSC, helped out for the day.

Miley said the importance of College Application Week, for her, is the ability to help the students with the application process.

"At home, some parents who have never applied to college don't know what some of the things mean, so to have everybody here to help, it really makes a difference," Miley said.

In small groups, students spent an hour filling out not only college applications, but also financial aid and scholarship forms. Ott said it is good exposure for the students and also pointed out some of the language on the applications can be difficult to understand.

"There is a lot of professional language, things kids aren't familiar with; how to write in dates accurately, things like that," Ott said. 

"I think this really builds their confidence and answers a lot of questions without having to call kids down one-on-one. It uses time really well."

While students were only required to apply to one college during the allotted hour, many students applied to two or more schools to keep their options open.

"Right now I am applying to U of I," said SHS senior Taylor Ward on Wednesday. "But I've applied to Whitworth, too."

Ward said she plans to major in psychology in college, although she is not sure what specific area of psychology she will focus on.

SHS senior Nichol Reed applied to three different colleges Wednesday, including NIC, UI and Idaho State University. She plans to work toward a degree as a physician's assistant as well as a degree in the music field.

"It's a weird combination, but I really like music — it's my backup," Reed said.

Reed said the application process was not proving to be too difficult, just a lot of questions.

Mire said the students are encouraged to apply to Idaho schools, but are not required to. For students applying to NIC, UI or LCSC, there is no application fee. SHS was a pilot school for the first Application Week four years ago and it quickly spread across the state. This week, 94 Idaho schools are taking part to ensure all high school seniors apply to a post-secondary institution.

When SHS was a pilot school for the program in 2013, it was the first school to work with NIC for Application Week, Mire said. At that time, NIC waved its application fee for the seniors applying throughout the week.

"We were the very first school to start this, and now it's one of those things where it removed one more barrier," Mire said, adding that North Idaho College completely removed its application fee for anyone who applies. LCSC recently followed suit and UI now waves fees for Idaho residents.

All SHS seniors who participated in College Application Week had the opportunity to win prizes through a raffle drawing. Also, Idaho's 529 college savings program, IDeal, is sponsoring six $250 scholarships for students who participated. One student from each of Idaho's six districts will be awarded the scholarship.

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