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Help, hype of College Application Week get seniors ready

A roomful of high school seniors work at laptops while 3 female teachers hover over them.

For Reina Pickard, a good day at school is a day when she’s too busy to eat lunch. By that standard, there were a lot of good days during College Application Week, when school counselors and college advisors like Pickard cleared their schedules to help LCPS seniors submit fee-free applications to community colleges, colleges and universities across North Carolina.

“We’ve had a good amount of kids,” Pickard, the college adviser at South Lenoir High School, said Thursday, as College Application Week wound down. “We really haven’t had a chance to sit and eat lunch this week, we’ve been so busy.”

A female teacher in a purple sweatshirt stands over two female high school seniors working at laptops.An annual rite for high school seniors during October, College Application Week (CAW) gives students a chance to save up to $85 per application to more than a hundred post-secondary institutions in the state, including all 58 community colleges. Since most students apply to at least three colleges, the savings add up; but the week is also important for the help students get and the hype that puts seniors in a college-going frame of mind.

“To hype up the week, we did a countdown in the College and Career Center and advertised the event in school, in the senior and parent newsletter, and on social media,” college advisor Brianna Summers said of activities at Kinston High School, where students had submitted more than 150 applications by Thursday. “We also raffled giveaway items that were donated from several of the participating CAW institutions at the end of each CAW workshop.”

Summers, like Pickard at South Lenoir and Kanijah Whitfield at North Lenoir High, is a college-focused resource assigned to LCPS’s traditional high schools through Carolina College Advising Corps. They and teams of school counselors at the high schools work year-round to help students chart a path to college, and during College Application Week the LCPS educators get extra help from Lenoir Community College and others.

“We bring in other resources, like representatives from LCC,” Pickard said. “We had their student recruiter here the other day. We open that space for kids to get that assistance.”

Forty-three percent of LCPS’s Class of 2022 earned college credits while in high school, mostly through LCC courses. That continuing association with the community college for hundreds of the district’s high school students – plus, the LCC Guarantee, which offers a tuition-free education for students who meet academic standards – makes LCC a favorite destination during College Application Week.

“We’ve had a good turnout each day, with assistance from LCC and the State Employees’ Credit Union,” Rachel Hewett, a school counselor at North Lenoir, said.

Because financial aid figures into college plans for most students, they and their parents were also able to get help with FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is the first step in securing loans, grants and need-based scholarships. College applications require proof of residency and some family information, while FAFSA focuses intently on family finances, including income and tax information.

“This year being as normal as possible, I’ve seen a lot more parents able to be in here,” said Pickard, who has worked three College Application Weeks at South Lenoir, including an all-virtual effort two years ago. “It’s easier for everyone if they come in and we can get everything taken care of. Then they’re good to go.”

North Lenoir senior Tony Bratton, who plans to study auto body engineering in college, did two things before he sat down Thursday to apply to Wake Technical Community College: he researched the program at Wake Tech and he gathered the family information the application asked for. “It helps to come prepared,” he said. 

“And they helped,” Bratton said, nodding at Hewett. “You ask them, and they help.”

Photo captions (from top):

South Lenoir High School students received college application and FAFSA assistance last week from College Application Week veterans, including Allie Bluhm-Whitley, Lenoir Community College student recruiter; Monica Lawson, LCC financial aid representative; Kelee Moore, South Lenoir school counselor' and Reina Pickard, South Lenoir college advisor.

Treva Romig, a school counselor at North Lenoir High School, works with students Marcela Herndandez, left, and Aniyah Simmons during College Application Week, a chance for seniors to apply to colleges across North Carolina without paying an application fee.