Rush City and North Branch high schools will be participating in a statewide effort dedicated to helping seniors apply for college.
The week of Nov. 12-16 is Minnesota College Application Week, a statewide initiative that aims to provide every graduating high school senior with the opportunity to learn about and apply to college. Students may apply to any two-year or four-year college, university or training program, while select colleges will be waiving application fees.
If they haven’t done so already, seniors can sign up or seek more information from their career center or school counselor.
Last year, as part of a national initiative through the American Council on Education, Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed the second week of November Minnesota College Applications Week. Rush City High School was one of 17 pilot schools that applied and was selected, and the results were evident.
“When we participated last year, we saw a great increase in seniors filling out college applications,” noted school counselor Heidi Larson of Rush City High. “We work with each senior individually while exploring their post secondary options.”
This year, the Minnesota Department of Education opened the program to all schools, with more than 100 schools signing up so far. Across the country, 20 states have committed, and if that number grows to 36, college application week will become a national event that will lead to more sharing of resources among schools, said Larson.
While much of the initiative’s focus is geared toward first-generation, low-income and other under-represented students, all students are encouraged to explore and prepare for educational opportunities following high school. “We only have 20 percent of seniors who are first-generation college earners,” Larson noted.
During Minnesota College Application Week, the state expects each senior to submit one application. In Rush City, the expectation is three college applications.
“The goal is to have enough adults with college degrees to fulfill our workforce, to meet job needs in Minnesota,” Larson explained. “I feel strongly about careers, providing more opportunities for students and post secondary options.”
Even before students reach their senior years in high school, Larson believes it’s important to prepare them through career exploration activities and other measures, including American College Testing, or ACT, which is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions.
“My ultimate goal is to have every junior take the ACT and prepare them as seniors to complete college applications.”
In Rush City, the senior class numbers 55, while there are 60-plus juniors with even larger freshman and sophomore classes.
This year, noted Larson, 71 percent of graduating seniors are college bound with 42 percent pursuing a four-year and 29 percent a two-year school. With 5 percent going military, the remaining 24 percent is heading right into the workforce.
“We want to make sure kids are on track to receive their diploma and preparing for college,” Larson said.
Students in eighth grade receive an introduction on careers and college through an explore effort that hopes to jump-start their thinking beyond high school.
Sophomores take a plan test to make sure they’re on track for college while also doing career match exercises. This further gives them an idea of how they will do on the ACT, which is taken in a student’s junior year.
The college application process is the next step for seniors.
As part of its college application week campaign, Rush City High recently hosted representatives from Hugo-based Wilson Tool who addressed juniors and seniors about its student internship program.
In an attempt to address the shortage of manufacturing employees in the workforce, the business said it offers a full-time paid internships to some high school seniors in the summer after they graduate and during their schooling at a technical college. A tuition reimbursement plan is also offered.
Rush City seniors also attended the National College Fair in Minneapolis, which for some was their first personal contact with a college representative, noted Lynne Bossart, of Rush City, who is working as an intern with school counselor Larson.
Through college application week, students and staff work together to build excitement and awareness surrounding the college exploration and application process. Computer lab time is provided to students who can explore colleges and apply online. Schools also incorporate fun activities within the school and community environment.
Volunteers and people from the community can reach out, too, by assisting students in exploring their college options and lending one-on-one help with completing applications. All seniors are the focus for a brighter future for them and a workforce that needs the help.