High school seniors get time, support to fill out college applications

West Ashley High School seniors (from left) Tyler Kreiling and Asia Mtchell listen as Patricia Ferguson (center), coordinator with Trident Regional Education Center, answers their questions as they fill out college application during West Ashley’s College Application Day. The south Carolina Commission on Higher Education has designated October as College Application Month.

West Ashley High School senior Tyler Kreiling hasn’t applied to any college yet, but he started his first application Tuesday morning.

He began the process during the school’s College Application Day, an event that gave students time during the regular school day to talk to college advisers and fill out applications.

“It’s really hard to find time,” he said. “I probably would’ve kept sticking this back and not doing it.”

The state Commission on Higher Education launched College Application Month in 2009 with 12 high schools and 1,000 students. Without any advertising dollars, the event has grown annually, and an estimated 39,000 seniors in 183 high schools will participate this year.

Almost every high school in the Lowcountry will host a College Application Day this year, in which students will get the chance to ask questions of representatives from two- and four-year colleges statewide, as well as business partners, parents and community representatives.

“I like to think of this as unmasking the college application process,” said Patricia Ferguson, coordinator for the Trident Regional Education Center. “Hopefully, applying won’t seem like such a daunting task.”

The goal is for every student to complete at least two applications, and those familiar with the program say it’s good for all students, especially those who might need an extra push to apply or who are first-generation college students.

“It opens (students’) lens to the future,” said West Ashley High Principal Mary Runyon. “They’re not going to have this support system anywhere else.”

Although high school guidance counselors routinely help students navigate the application process, the program is beneficial because it’s a concentrated effort giving students more support and information, said Jane Pulling, regional coordinator for College Application Month for the state Commission on Higher Education.

Last year was the first that West Ashley High hosted the event, and about 120 students signed up. This year, all of the roughly 400 students in its senior class wanted to take part in it. Students went to the school’s computer labs during their English classes, and officials from at least nine colleges were available to answer questions. Most colleges also offered to waive application fees.

Miss South Carolina Brooke Mosteller was among those who helped create College Application Month, and she was at West Ashley High Tuesday to talk to seniors about the initiative.

Senior Bernard Edwards hadn’t applied to any colleges before Tuesday morning, but he said he learned about Trident Technical College’s Bridge program, which would allow him to take courses at the two-year community college before transferring to a four-year university. He said that sounded like a good idea to him, and he planned to look into it further.

“This has helped me,” he said.

Senior Amy Paparozzi already has applied to Winthrop University and the University of South Carolina, but she said she still was interested in applying to Anderson University and planned to do that during the program.

Although her mother went to college, she said the process has changed since then, so it’s nice to have people available to answer questions.

“I’ve definitely been stressed, and I’m glad I have time during the school day to get this done,” she said.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.