Across GCPS, high schools are hosting events to bring awareness to college planning and to help seniors with the application process as part of Georgia Apply to College Month. At Mountain View HS, Nov. 13-17 was Apply to College Week, and the school’s Counseling Office welcomed volunteers— parents, community members, and college representatives— to assist seniors with their college applications.
Sessions were scheduled during the students’ language arts class period. The students started their session by logging in to their My GAFutures account on GAFutures.org to review the college planning timeline information and to research the schools they have in mind for applying. The website from the Georgia Student Finance Commission provides college and career planning resources for the state’s students.
“Many students have started applications and just need to finish, but this week was a great opportunity for many others to actually begin the process,” says Joyce Gonzalez, 12th grade counselor at Mountain View. “Having volunteers on hand to help encourage our students really made a difference.” Ms. Gonzalez adds that she has been pleased with the level of motivation among the school’s 533 seniors.
Mountain View 12th grader Olivia completed an application to Georgia Gwinnett College, and already has her major in mind. “I’m planning to study information technology,” she says. “I know it’s a growing industry and I would have a successful career.”
Parent Patricia McKinzie decided to volunteer because she’ll soon be tackling the college application process with her own 11th grader. “It was good for me to see the process,” she says. “I didn’t know that they had these common websites where students could go and complete their applications.” She encourages parents to “start early when learning what your student needs. Don’t wait until senior year.”
Miles, a senior who plans to pursue forensics, applied to Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of North Georgia. He said his mother encouraged him to apply now so he’d have a plan in mind as he completed his senior year.
For students applying to public colleges in Georgia, the majority of the college application process takes place online— in as little as 30 minutes, in some cases. Students’ information— including address, school information, transcripts, and test scores— is saved within their individual accounts on GAFutures.org. The website serves as a one-stop location for college research and planning, and a point to begin the application process.
When the student selects a Georgia college or university and creates an application, his or her information automatically populates key fields. Other fields might require a brief response. The applications aren’t timed, so students can save their work and return to finish them at a later time.
The Common Application, which has partnered with more than 700 colleges and universities nationwide, also includes several Georgia universities. Ms. Gonzalez encourages all students to begin their application on the college’s website and follow the college’s preferred or recommended application system.
A new application program, the Coalition Application, currently has 113 member schools nationwide, and some Georgia universities have started using this new program as well.
For students who are interested in applying to colleges and universities outside of Georgia, Ms. Gonzalez recommends starting on the school’s website and seeing where the process leads them.
Faith, a senior who became interested in software engineering after learning about coding on Code Academy, had already submitted applications to North Carolina A&T and Hampton University. She used her time in the computer lab to research scholarship opportunities on GAFutures.org. Faith encourages her fellow seniors to visit the schools they are considering. “Definitely make sure the environment is you and you fit there,” she says. “That is a big part of why I chose my school because I love the environment and the engineering program is one of the best.” With choosing a major, Faith adds, “it’s something that you should love to do, not something you feel forced to do. That’s going to be your career and you don’t want to end up wasting your time or your money.”
Lindsey McDaniel teaches a dual enrollment English class at Mountain View through Gwinnett Technical College. While her students may be feeling the stress of senior year, and all that entails, she notes that the students are enthusiastic about the application process. “They are invested in their education, and a lot of them have applied or started,” she says
Mountain View’s Georgia Apply to College event also featured college representatives from Gwinnett Technical College, UNG, and Georgia Gwinnett College, among others. The representatives spent time speaking with students, offering information about areas of study, the application process, and financial aid, and sharing their own “been there, done that” insights.
“Mountain View is one of my favorite schools and I like helping out whenever I can,” says José Gutierrez of Georgia Gwinnett College. Recalling his own senior year experiences, Mr. Gutierrez says many students don’t really know what they want to do in college. “I tell them that’s OK, and get them to think about local options,” he says. “Because college is a huge commitment and investment, I encourage students to have more conversations with people who have done what they may want to do, and see where they can start, rather than thinking about where to finish.”