Chappell Carter III always knew he wanted to go to college.
The first of his family to go on to higher education, the now 18-year-old Utican didn’t know quite how to make his dream a reality.
“I didn’t understand, and I was so lost,” he said about all the paperwork.
Applying to college is a difficult process for anyone, from filling out the seemingly endless forms to meeting deadlines, not to mention paying for it.
Unfortunately, those barriers often keep many from attending.
To help make college more accessible, organizations and educational institutions statewide are celebrating College Application Week, starting today.
The event is part of a national American College Application Campaign to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students who pursue postsecondary education.
“Although we’ve improved access, it still is a problem,” said Elizabeth Morgan, director of external relations for the National College Access Network. “There are hundreds of thousands of students who could go on to college every year, but don’t.”
To celebrate College Application Week, the Utica-based On Point for College, which focuses on 17- to 29-year-olds with low incomes, who either have a high school diploma or are currently in a program to get their diploma or GED, will offer daily help sessions.
Having some sort of secondary education is becoming increasingly more important as job opportunities that do not require higher education are becoming rare, Morgan said.
The higher the education of an area, the more the residents will be earning, she said. That decreases unemployment rates and contributes to the tax base.
Though financing college still is an issue, the main problem is the complexities of the application process, Morgan said.
In Herkimer County, only 19 percent of adults have a four-year degree or higher and only 22 percent in Oneida County do, compared to 32 percent statewide, according to the Community Foundation of Oneida & Herkimer Counties Inc. Community Indicators.
To help, many organizations and schools are offering assistance. For example, the Community Foundation’s 25/25 initiative hopes to connect local organizations to increase the percentage of adults in Herkimer and Oneida counties who have bachelor’s degrees to 25 percent by the year 2025.
Mohawk Valley Community College and other area schools also offer forums each year to help families with the application and financial aid processes.
Though MVCC has a number of programs to help nontraditional students go back to school, it’s also focusing on area youth.
Programs, such as Upward Bound, GEAR UP, and the Science and Technology Entry Program, focus on helping students with their current academics, and show them activities that could lead to career development while giving them the goal of attending college, said Kim Overrocker, director of Student Engagement and Outreach.
Page 2 of 2 - “It’s a maze, just like anything else. If you make a wrong turn it’ll take you twice as long or you get frustrated and give up,” Overrocker said. “The earlier we can get that information out, the greater the success there will be.”
As for Carter, On Point provided the assistance he needed to not only apply, but succeed at MVCC.
“They sat down with me and found out what I really wanted to go for and if it was right for me,” said the first-year business and administration student. “It’s amazing to have people actually support you.”