‘The first step is always the hardest’
When it comes to taking that first college step – applying – Bondurant-Farrar High School administrators, counselors and educators are doing everything they can to make that ‘first step’ less intimidating.
“The first step is always the hardest,” said Rich Powers, superintendent of schools at Bondurant-Farrar School District. “The college application process can be intimidating for students. By helping them through that first step, students are less anxious and we are able to help them find their true fit.”
Decked out in college apparel representing the colleges and universities where they attended, teachers and counselors alike gathered students to greet Governor Terry Branstad and ask questions about education, opportunity, and their future during an assembly to kick off the Iowa College Application Campaign.
“Being involved in the Iowa College Application Campaign goes along with how we stress the importance of having a plan, preparing for the future, and being ready to face the unknown,” said Erik Garnass, principal at Bondurant-Farrar High School. “We want to give them all the tools and information we can as they make those decisions about life after high school, whether that be attending a two- or four-year college, technical training, or the workforce.”
Launched as part of the American College Application Campaign and administered by the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, the campaign seeks to increase the number of students who apply to college early in their senior year, with a focus on students from low-income families, first-generation students, and students who may not otherwise apply to college. For the fifth year in a row, Branstad proclaimed October as “College Application Month” in the state and encouraged all Iowa high school seniors to take advantage of the assistance provided through this initiative.
“The Iowa College Application Campaign events that occur in high schools all over the state are a wonderful way for high school seniors to begin that first step of applying to many of the state’s wonderful postsecondary institutions,” said Michael Lentsch, director of program development at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). “Many times the admissions application process can be intimidating and confusing to these prospective students. This program uses a collaborative effort among higher educational professionals to guide students to complete this process and move one step closer to achieving their goals of going to college.”
The assistance received through Iowa College Application Campaign made a big difference for Bondurant Senior Haley Pertzborn.
“The college application help at school makes a huge difference,” Haley said. “It forces students to learn more about college and to get their questions answered. I am definitely more confident in my decisions for the future.”
This is Bondurant High School’s second year participating in the campaign, which provides students time during the school day to receive application assistance with the goal of each participating student submitting at least one college application.
The success of the campaign relies heavily on volunteers from the community and institutions of higher education.
“We help with any college application, not just our own college application, as a service to our local students,” said Rachel McGuire, director of enrollment services at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC). “We see that many students apply to more than one college and NIACC has experienced an increase in the number of applications from students since we started doing this several years ago. We feel this is a great way to promote education and, by helping at the front end of the college selection process, will ultimately increase the educational attainment of our state’s future workforce.”
Branstad talked candidly with the students about all of the state’s job opportunities, but stressed that additional education or training beyond high school is the “new minimum to succeed,” whether that be a two- or four-year college degree, certificate, or other valuable credential. The growing demand for a skilled workforce is what prompted the governor and lieutenant governor to set a goal for Iowa to be “future-ready” with 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce having attained education or training beyond high school by 2025.
“Over two-thirds of all jobs in the state will require education or training beyond high school,” Branstad said. “I ask that you make it a priority to earn a college degree or complete training after high school. It will open doors for you. Applying is an essential first step to choosing a college that fits your needs and aspirations.”
Senior Nick Herman took what the governor said to heart.
“I didn’t always know that I wanted to go to college,” Herman said. “I actually had not gotten around to applying, so the campaign pushed me and helped make it an easy process. I applied to both DMACC and the University of Iowa.”