[Opinion] Seniors need more college application support

College applications can pile up out of control. Graphic by Brianna Jesionowski

There are plenty of people who will sit down and help you whittle your college application down to perfection– if you’re willing to pay. College admissions counselors aim to help students gain acceptance to the university of their dreams. However, that help comes with a hefty price tag: $85-100 an hour, on average. For some Parkland families, this is trivial. For many others, it’s completely unachievable. Public schools need to provide an option for all students to have the same opportunity for admission, regardless of how much their parents make or are willing to pay. 

Providing more application support within schools would increase access to college for disadvantaged students. Many students struggle with meeting application deadlines, overcoming the nuances of the Common Application, choosing appropriate topics for essays and meeting the requirements for resume writing. If they received assistance from a professional, this would lower the socioeconomic barrier and allow them to properly display their potential to schools without drowning in the details of filling out forms.

This policy would be implemented by hiring additional BRACE advisors. Though Ana Farrand works hard to provide support to every student, she’s only one counselor. There are 765 seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Ideally, nearly all of these students are applying to college.

There’s simply not enough time in a school day for Farrand to walk every student through the process of making a resume, or through each field on the Common App. Adding more BRACE advisors to the staff would ease her burden and allow for more in-depth assistance.

Advisors could come in during personalization periods and sit aside with each student to see if they’re having any problems with their applications, keeping up with deadlines or researching which schools are right for them. If necessary, they could provide input on where to go, if students are struggling with essays. These advisors would serve the job of a college admissions counselor, but could make this service more generally available. It would prevent the stratification of access by income. 

After the application season ends, these counselors would not be out of a job. They could also assist students in the ever-crucial process of applying for financial aid. Even more than applications, forms like the FAFSA and CSS Profile can be deeply confusing.

Students with busy parents may struggle to figure out how to fill in individual forms, as well as to interpret tax forms. Once again, advisors would be deeply helpful in this area; they’re adults, and professionals, so they know what a W-2 form is and how to calculate income.

These counselors can provide individual support to students applying for scholarships, as well. There are thousands of scholarships available if you know how to look. In 2014, $2.9 billion went unclaimed by students that would otherwise be eligible for Pell Grants but failed to fill out the Free Application for Federal Aid. There are also seemingly endless scholarships in incredibly specific categories, which correspond to specific goals many students pursue. Advisors would connect these students to the resources they need to afford higher education on an individual basis.

Due to the intense nature of the college application process, students can feel lost and intimidated. Private college admissions counselors can shine a guiding light on the process, but only for families willing to pay. That is not how education should work. Students with equal ability should have equal access to opportunities that will shape their entire adult lives.

No student deserves to drown in the process and miss out on their dreams. By providing increased support to seniors, Broward County Public Schools would provide a lifeboat to these struggling students, and make the ride smoother for everyone.