• Ashley Lane, DCAN Program Manager

It's Michigan College Month!

October is Michigan College Month! This initiative is part of the American College Application Campaign where the goal is to provide every graduating high school senior with the opportunity to apply to college and for financial aid. If you are a first generation college student or a student who hasn’t thought much about life after high school, this is the perfect time to explore your options and figure out which post secondary pathway is right for you. During the month of October there at various programs, resources and opportunities geared towards supporting students through the application process.

As a high school senior, I know you may be thinking why October, why so soon? As soon as you officially enter your senior year everyone is telling you to hit the ground running with applying to colleges and working on your FAFSA. I know it can be extremely overwhelming but trust me when I say there is a reason why we stress applying in October.

Benefits to Applying in October

  • Application Fee Waivers; in Michigan most colleges/universities waive their application fees in October to encourage and support seniors to apply early. Applying in October means saving money as application fees can range from $25 - $100 each.

  • Early Action Deadline; Most schools have an early action deadline of November 1st or 15th. Applying early action means that you will get an admissions decision earlier. In most cases you will know sometime in December before going on Christmas break if you have been admitted or not.

  • Possibility of Deferment over Denial; Applying early gives you the possibility of having your application deferred. If you are just shy of the requirements for a particular school, instead of denying you the admissions committee might push your application into the regular decision pool and review it again in January or February. This will give you time to present a new GPA and possibly retake your standardized test to make your application stronger.

  • More Informed Financial Decision; the earlier you are accepted and have your FAFSA complete the sooner you will receive financial aid award letters. The award letter will show you in detail how much funding you will receive from each school. Knowing your financial standing early on will help you narrow down the most affordable option for you and your family.

  • Relax; Knowing where you will be attending in the fall and how you will pay for it early in your senior years affords you the opportunity to relax and enjoy the best parts of being a senior!

I myself didn't fully understand the reason or benefits until I was nearing the end of my senior year. I am a proud graduate of Northwestern High School class of 2009! I graduated with a 3.9 cumulative GPA, got a 25 on the ACT and participated in all the “ideal” programs and extracurricular activities that we are told looks great when applying to college. Michigan College Month wasn’t a thing just yet, we didn’t have college reps visit our school to host admissions presentations and I surely was not meeting with my counselor to discuss my college plans. I honestly went through most of my senior year without talking much about college or what I would be doing after high school. Though I had the grades, a pretty decent test score, a variety of extracurricular activities, volunteer experience and a job, I did not have the support, resources or knowledge I needed to navigate the college process.

I didn’t start applying to colleges until February/March of my senior year. I never created a college list, hadn’t started my FAFSA and I didn’t even know what all I needed to complete a college application. Applying in February meant my acceptance letters didn’t start rolling in until around April/May. Be mindful that applications are processed in the order they are received and applying late means that institutions are going through every application that came in before yours before ever taking a look at your application. This also means that as students are admitted and seats are filled the space for incoming freshmen gets smaller and smaller. You could very well be admissible to a school and be turned down simply because they don’t have space for you anymore.

Schools cannot create you a financial aid award letter until you have been admitted and submitted your FAFSA with the school listed. Submitting your FAFSA late will delay the process of getting your award letter. So in addition to not knowing if I had been admitted to any colleges, I also had no idea how much financial aid I would receive or if any of the schools I applied to would be affordable for my family. I remember trying to plan for prom, attend pep rallies and enjoy the last few months of my senior year while being so stressed and worried that I would not be able to attend college. I had classmates starting to wear their college gear and brag about where they had been accepted. All my moms friends and family would congratulate me on being about to graduate high school and ask me where I was going to college in the fall, I had no answer. I blamed myself for not taking the process seriously early on.

Ultimately, I was accepted to some colleges and chose to attend the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. However, I was unsure if I would be able to attend for some time because I didn’t solidify financial aid until June. The stress of not knowing the fate of my future was a huge distraction from my school work and my social life. I felt like I had let my family down because I was one of those students that thought that October was so early and I had plenty of time to apply to college and work on my FAFSA. The reality is you don’t have plenty of time. Just as you look back on your time in high school and how it seems like you were just a freshman, this school year is going to be over before you know it. As a current high school senior you are experiencing a school year that none of us have ever experienced before. Be mindful that things are virtual, almost every part of the college going process is digital, and this means that there will be unforeseen delays as we all learn to adapt to this new climate. You need all the time you can get now more than ever. I urge you to start early, start now, start today!

There are so many resources available to you to ensure that you are well equipped with all you need to apply to college this October and get your FAFSA submitted. Take advantage of your resources so that stress, anxiety and uncertainty don’t control your senior year.

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