For 15 years, Canyons has embraced an overarching mission of ensuring that every student is college- and career-ready at the time of high school graduation. But the District doesn’t stop there in preparing students for life after their senior years.
All high schools in Canyons — Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon, Hillcrest, Jordan, and Diamond Ridge — participate in Utah College Application Week, held each year in October to encourage all seniors to submit at least one viable application to a post-secondary education institution.
UCAW activities are being held this month at the six high schools in an effort to make the process of applying to college, be it at a technical school or a four-year university, less daunting for Canyons teens and their families.
Research shows students who seek any kind of post-secondary education will earn more throughout their lifetimes. “Getting that high school degree is already setting you up for success, let alone getting any potential post-secondary education is just going to increase your earning potential.” says Canyons District’s School Counseling Program Specialist Melissa Baker.
This is an important time for seniors in CSD, as a number of Utah’s post-secondary schools waive their application fees during the month of October, when Utah schools hold their UCAW events.
Still, many application fees at schools across the country begin at $35 and go up to roughly $60, meaning it can cost students hundreds of dollars if they’re applying to more than one program. “So many students are afraid of applying because they don’t think that they’re going to get in or the cost is a huge barrier,” says Baker.
To ease any student worries related to college-application fees, the Canyons Education Foundation has pledged up to $10,000 for any student who needs the financial help to submit an application.
Another resource available to students is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called the FAFSA, which must be completed for students to obtain financial aid.
For the unfamiliar, FAFSA is the gateway to more than just needs-based scholarships. Students who complete their FAFSA become eligible for work-study opportunities in college, low-interest loans that are much cheaper than private loans, and many college- and state-based merit scholarships.
This year, FAFSA applications will be available in December, but Baker says there are still steps students and parents can take ahead of time. “The real thing they can do is the FSA ID,” says Baker. “The FSA ID is needed for the parent and the student in order to access the FAFSA. It’s their unique ID login that they will use as they fill out the FAFSA.”
Counselors across the District can help families with this process if students have questions, Baker says.
“If parents have questions about UCAW or they want to attend while their student is applying or just be a part of the process,” she says, “they can contact their school and find out what activities and different things their school is doing specific to UCAW.”
To encourage students to fill out and submit college applications, the high counseling centers have planned numerous activities. For example, schools often choose a class period for counselors to be in the room, sometimes with representatives from the different higher-education institutions, to help students apply for college.
Students also will receive packets provided by the Utah System of Higher Education. In the packets, students will find information on every post-secondary program in the state, UCAW waiver codes, and step-by-step notes of what they should put in their applications.
In December and January, each high school plan to host a FAFSA completion night to help students through the application process.
“The counselors are there in the evening with translators and representatives from USHE helping students and families fill out the FAFSA,” says Baker. “They have people there answering questions for our families who may be undocumented or may have a unique family situation from divorce or death or just different things. So, they can help just navigate that process because it can be really overwhelming.”
Baker says she understands first-hand how the college application process can be a heavy lift for any student and their family.
“My parents didn’t go to college,” Baker says. “I was a first-generation college student and so they had no clue how to help me apply to college. This is really getting the counselors in front of the students and helping them in an organized way.”Baker encourages every student to submit applications to multiple institutions, particularly while some of those application fees are waived this month.“You literally have nothing to lose,” says Baker. “When we know our students have been working for, really it’s 13 years, to get to where they are as a senior and apply to those schools and then they get those acceptance letters – It’s probably one of the most rewarding things.”