By Chris Franken, September guest blogger
College Knowledge Month — a statewide effort to help high school seniors explore, plan and apply for college will occur during the month of October. For the past three years, I have had the opportunity to represent the Minnesota Association for College Admission Counseling (MACAC) on the MN College Knowledge Month (CKM) Steering Team. The steering team is comprised of individuals who represent a broad network of Minnesota educational institutions, agencies, organizations and non-profits. First launched in 2011, the initiative evolved in 2012 to include 106 registered high school sites and nearly 200 volunteers impacting approximately 16,000 students.
There are 109 sites registered to participate in CKM events and activities for fall 2013. CKM steering team members helped craft a calendar of exploration, planning and application resources to benefit students throughout the month. Application fees and fee waiver information for Minnesota colleges and universities have also been compiled.
College Knowledge Month aims to:
- Help schools establish and/or build upon a culture of college-readiness.
- Communicate to all students the importance of preparing for and applying to college.
- Engage and inform underrepresented students (first-generation college students, students of color, and low-income students) about postsecondary opportunities, culminating in the application process.
- Provide a statewide message and excitement about exploring and planning for college.
- Increase the number of Minnesota seniors who apply to college.
A month-long effort will allow students to do more than just submit an application. Applying is only one step of the college application process — the result of thoughtful exploration and planning. Within this expanded time frame, students can participate in the application process at their own pace — and find the best college fit for them. Counselors and high school staff will have more time to draft recommendations, secure transcripts and/or application fee waivers and support underrepresented students. Schools can build upon or establish a college-going culture by utilizing the college exploration activities that already take place in the fall of the academic year. October is a natural time for this to occur, since there are already college exploration opportunities taking place across the state (i.e. NACAC National College Fair, local MACAC college fairs, early application deadlines, college visits).
The impetus for improving college access in Minnesota by launching a college application initiative is an effort to address challenges faced by our state. Changing demographics suggest a majority of projected growth among Latino and African-American students. These same students are often first-generation and may come from lower-income families. Rising college costs and financial aid issues, as well as perceptions of students themselves all play a role in creating barriers. Although there is likely no aspiration gap among underrepresented students, without role models or supportive adults to help guide them, many of these students may feel as if college is not a realistic or attainable goal.College matters. It matters to our nation, our state, and our communities. And, it matters to our students. Through MN College Knowledge Month, representatives from institutions, agencies and organizations will collaborate at a very local level in an effort to remove barriers and increase access — because college matters.