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Delaware high school seniors show off their “I Applied to College” stickers in honor of College Application Month.
Delaware high school seniors show off their “I Applied to College” stickers in honor of College Application Month.

College Application Month 2017

Photo by Delaware Department of Education

State, UD institute partner to help students apply for college

High school students across the state received help preparing for college through the Delaware College Application Month (CAM) program.

The sixth annual Delaware College Application Month, a partnership between the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA) and the Delaware Department of Education, kicked off on Oct. 16 and ran through Nov. 17.

During CAM, high schools allot time during the day to assist seniors with filling out and submitting at least one college application. Participating students also have the opportunity to speak with volunteers on topics related to financial aid, college activities and college life. A special focus is placed on assisting low-income students and those who may not have thought about applying to college until provided the opportunity.

“At the Department of Education, we believe that CAM is an important support component for students and schools,” said Shana Payne, M.A. ’02, the director of the Delaware Department of Education’s Higher Education Office. “We value the partnership with the University of Delaware and the Institute for Public Administration to be able to provide support statewide to all of our schools to ensure that these students are able to get access to college application resources and receive guidance on where and how to apply to college.”

Delaware began CAM in 2012 with two schools – Lake Forest and Smyrna high schools – and the program has since expanded to now include 42 high schools around the state.

“We continue with Delaware College Application Month because we see the impact for students,” said Payne. “We see more and more students each year completing their FAFSA applications. I think it’s clear that there is a correlation.”

Students must complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for federally-backed student loans and many colleges require it for their financial aid decisions.

From application fees to filling out the FAFSA, the college application process can be overwhelming—and the stakes certainly are high.

Delaware Department of Labor data indicate that by 2018, 47 percent of new jobs created in Delaware will require a college degree or formal vocational training, while 53 percent will require on-the-job training. According to the 2016 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for someone with a bachelor’s degree was $60,000, while those people with an associate’s degree earned $42,000 and those with only a high school diploma earned $35,000.

For Lauren Barczak, a senior at Middletown’s Appoquinimink High School during the 2016-17 school year, CAM and its team of volunteers were instrumental in helping her in the college application process.

“In high school, I didn’t know much about the application process or what schools like the University of Delaware had to offer,” said Barczak. “Having volunteers come to my school and help with applications and even share their personal experiences about the process really made a difference.”

Barczak is now a first-year student majoring in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at UD.

“College Application Month is a great resource for high school students to learn what nobody has really told them about the FAFSA, applications and college in general,” she said.

Community volunteers play a very important role in the implementation of the program. The volunteers come from Delaware colleges and universities, state agencies, businesses and community organizations. They filled more than 320 volunteer shifts this year. In total, 28 out of the 42 high schools requested community volunteers. The other 14 high schools had their own volunteers lined up. At UD, CAM project managers Kelly Sherretz and Chris Kelly work with a team of undergraduate and graduate students to bring the program to life.

“While volunteering to help students with their college applications is critical, it is just as important to just speak with them, let them know that their goals are valid and that with a solid plan and perseverance they can achieve their dreams no matter the profession they choose,” said Kelly, an assistant policy scientist at IPA.

“College Application Month is a shining example of the work that can be accomplished when the university partners with local and state government officials here in Delaware,” said IPA Director Dr. Jerome Lewis. “The Institute for Public Administration is proud to be part of an initiative that makes college more accessible to Delaware students.”

If you’re interested in participating in CAM 2018, email Chris Kelly at cgkelly@udel.edu to be added to the potential volunteer list. Volunteers can choose the school(s), date(s) and time(s) that works best for their schedules. Once volunteers have signed up, they receive confirmation and reminder emails from the Delaware CAM Planning Team, and are asked to view a brief volunteer training webinar and handbook. These resources provide volunteers with an idea of what to expect when volunteering.   

For those interested in learning more about Delaware CAM, visit DelawareGoesToCollege.org.

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