A recent article in Bridge Magazine on college admissions and the increasing number of college applications suggests that submitting a high number of college applications is the norm for today’s high school students. However, data compiled by the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) shows otherwise. MCAN’s mission is to increase college readiness, participation and completion in Michigan, and ultimately increase the percentage of Michigan residents with a high-quality degree or credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.
After completing Michigan’s fourth College Application Week in October at high schools across the state, our data shows participating students apply to 1.25 colleges on average. Just under 34,000 applications were submitted by nearly 27,000 high school seniors during this year’s College Application Week efforts, with 43 percent of participating high school seniors indicating that it was their first time submitting a college application. Additionally, 31 percent of participating high school seniors indicated they will be the first in their family to attend college.
This data is based upon 271 high schools and career tech centers that reported their participation in the Michigan College Access Network’s (MCAN) College Application Week. Data from previous College Application Week efforts in 2011-1013 also shows this trend has held true. The American College Application Campaign has found similar results year to year with participating students completing an average of 1.44 college applications.
MCAN hosts Michigan College Application Week to give all students access to help with the college application process. For many students the application process can be cumbersome or confusing. Too often students do not apply to college because they don’t understand the college-going process. We’re dedicated to helping all students navigate this process, but especially students who statistically face more obstacles in their paths to college, including minority, low-income and first generation college students.
Michigan College Application Week gives these students the tools to learn how to properly apply to different institutions and find financial aid. It also provides crucial support throughout this important step in a student’s career.
While there has been a rise in the number of college applications submitted in our state, we can’t assume this rise is due to each student applying to 10 or more colleges. MCAN’s efforts to aid low-income and minority students with their college applications can explain the rise as well. Students who might not have applied to college otherwise are now realizing the importance of a college education and looking to their high school staff to work with them to complete and submit their applications successfully.
Rather than focusing on the number of applications students are submitting, we should be stressing the importance of a community helping students find the resources they need to decide which college is the best match and fit for them.
It’s clear that obtaining a college degree can provide countless career opportunities, including higher salaries and a better chance for upward mobility. No student should be denied the opportunity to get a college degree. As a state, we need to make sure we are doing all we can to make college an opportunity for all by providing our students with the tools to take that important first step – submitting a college application.
Brandy Johnson is executive director of the nonprofit Michigan College Access Network, dedicated to preparing students for college, particularly low-income and first-generation college students and students of color.