"Oh, The Places They'll Go!" — College Application Week at Cottonwood and Kearns High Schools

megan-oSteve Whatcottby Megan Olsen, Cottonwood High Community School Director
and Steve Whatcott, Kearns High Community School Director

Had you entered Cottonwood or Kearns High School sometime between November 10 – 21, you would have found yourself visually overwhelmed with logos, banners, posters, pennants, and surrounded by faculty proudly donning t-shirts, jackets, and other apparel from schools like Dixie State University, Snow College, and UCLA. Walking toward the staircase in Kearns’ main hallway, your eyes would have been drawn to the words of Dr. Seuss plastered on each stair: “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

At Cottonwood and Kearns, college was in the air because both high schools were participating in a statewide initiative called “College Application Week,” led by the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) and implemented by Granite School District. Realizing that many students come from homes where there is neither a tradition nor an expectation of going to college, leaders at USHE envisioned an event where students would receive step-by-step assistance through the college application process.

At Cottonwood and Kearns, seniors were brought to school computer labs, where they filled out applications with the help of counselors, teachers, and community volunteers. Between the two schools, more than 700 seniors applied to local colleges, and more than 1200 applications were submitted!!

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As the cost of applying to most Utah schools ranges from $25-$50 and paying the fees can be prohibitive to many students. Generous community support enabled large numbers of high school seniors to apply. Many colleges and universities provide assistance for low-income students. In addition, generous donations from the Granite Education Foundation and United Way of Salt Lake assisted students who would not otherwise be able to apply.

The purpose of this event is not only to aid seniors in applying to college, but also to create a college-going culture for all students. Events leading up to College Application Week included parent education nights, school-wide college fairs, and student informational meetings. During the week, schools hosted special guests such as the Lt. Governor, the Commissioner of Higher Education, as well as scholarship directors and presidential ambassadors from the University of Utah. All of these speakers communicated to students that where there is a will, there is a way — and there are ample resources to assist them in paying for and succeeding in college, no matter what their current circumstance.

At Cottonwood and Kearns, College Application Week was a big success for the seniors who applied, as well as for juniors, sophomores, and freshmen who all heard the “I can go to college” message loud and clear!

At the conclusion of the event at Cottonwood, one student approached the counselor who led the project and said “I knew people who weren’t going to apply to college, and because of you, they changed their minds.” Her thoughts echo that of hundreds of other students who, having now submitted their applications, must take the baton and run with it.

Oh, where will they go from here?

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