Despite taking place during the same week as Halloween, Wharton High School’s recent campaign to help students apply for college aimed to remove any scariness from the process.
As part of FCAN’s statewide Apply Yourself Florida initiative, Wharton High hosted a Spooktacular College Application Week between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1. The weeklong campaign allowed students to work on or complete their college applications during normal school hours with help from members of the high school’s guidance department.
“The main idea is the same each year, so I like to try and do things a little differently and try to build on what we did the year before,” said Magda Rodriguez, college and career counselor. “With this year, it was the kids constantly asking about the looming November 1 priority (application) deadline for schools like UF and FSU that got me thinking about doing a Halloween theme.”
Students could either register to participate in Wharton’s College Application Week on Eventbrite or receive a pass during their lunch period to visit Wharton’s Success Center, where they could work on their college applications. This year, Rodriguez said 80 Wharton High students participated during College Application Week, including 44 students who completed at least one application to a postsecondary institution at the Success Center.
“More students did complete their applications, though not necessarily when they came here to work on them,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of students finished them at home.”
In addition to utilizing Halloween candy to entice students into working on their applications, Rodriguez said those who participated were entered into daily gift card raffles.
“Our principal contributed five $5 Walmart gift cards, which is five dollars they didn’t have before and is another thing that motivates them to come to our Success Center and work on their applications,” she said.
The week also featured visits from representatives at Hillsborough Community College to answer questions about their institutions and the application process, as well as a University of Tampa Instant Decision Day with a UT admission counselor who met with students individually to discuss and evaluate their application materials.
“Some of the students have already completed several applications, some need help finishing applications they started working on, and others are doing it on their own for the first time,” Rodriguez said. “We are here to help and to incentivize them to finish.”
Apply Yourself Florida is part of the American College Application Campaign, a nationwide effort to increase the number of low-income and first-generation students applying to college. This event gives students the opportunity to complete their college applications during normal school hours with the help of trained volunteers.