Volunteers visit seniors at Eastern Senior High School.
By the time the bell rang at 3:15 on Nov. 3, a classroom of 15 Eastern Senior High School seniors each had applied to at least five local colleges.
They spent their final period of the day filling out paper applications, choosing programs of study and asking questions about financial aid. For some, the hour-long session served as their first introduction to the college application process. For others, it opened up a dialogue about SAT scores, scholarships and career prospects.
“It really started that conversation of ‘What is your end goal?’ It was educational beyond filling out a bunch of applications,” said Sydney Morris, assistant director of undergraduate admissions at the George Washington University.
Ms. Morris was one of a dozen GW admissions representatives who visited Eastern in Northeast D.C. during D.C. College Application Week 2014.
The week is part of the American College Application Campaign launched by the American Council on Education—a national effort to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students who pursue a postsecondary education. Its purpose is to help high school seniors navigate the college application process and to ensure that each participating student submits at least one admissions application. Ninety-nine percent of students at Eastern receive free or reduced-price lunch.
In the past year, George Washington President Steven Knapp has made it a priority to expand college opportunities for D.C. high school students. After attending a college opportunity summit at the White House, Dr. Knapp created a university-wide Task Force on Access and Success in January, which focuses on opening doors and ensuring the success of lower-income and first generation college students. The GW visit to Eastern supports the goals of that task force.
When the GW Office of Admissions staff arrived at Eastern, they said they were ready to do whatever was asked of them. Kelly Hart, a 12th grade school counselor, appreciated the help. Her caseload includes more than 200 seniors. Ms. Hart wanted each of them to apply to at least five colleges—including the University of the District of Columbia, Potomac State and Garrett Community College—by the end of the week.
The GW staffers split into four groups—two in the morning and two in the afternoon—and got to work answering questions and offering assistance, as classes applied to colleges. As each student completed their application packets, they received a sticker, a wrist band and a high five.
Some students moved on to explore other college and university websites, like senior Taneah Waters, who wants to apply to the psychology program at Virginia State University.
“So what about the SATs? Is there a score you need to reach?” Ms. Waters asked Ms. Morris. She also wondered what would happen if she transferred to the four-year university after attending a community college. “Do I have to apply for financial aid a second time?”
Ms. Morris helped Ms. Waters navigate the VSU admissions site, and by the end of hour, Ms. Waters said expressed her gratitude.
“She gave me a better understanding of how I should apply,” said Ms. Waters, who hopes to become a school counselor one day.
Eastern Senior High School students will visit GW on Thursday during an event hosted by the student organization Serve Your City. GW students will host a number of activities, including speakers, a campus tour, an entrepreneurship workshop and meetings with representatives from various student groups. The purpose of the event is for Eastern students to learn more about opportunities at GW and college in general, said Cory Shaffer, a sophomore in the School of Business.
For Karen Felton, GW’s dean of admissions, connecting with local high school students is one of the best parts of her job.
"I think it’s a great reminder of why so many of us chose this profession,” Ms. Felton said. “It’s great to see so many of them to start to think about their future.