As the cost of a college education continues to rise, so too does another, less-visible expense: the cost of simply applying to schools. Application fees now average $50 per college, sending test scores and applying for financial aid cost still more, and visiting a campus often requires airfare and hotels. Juniors, meanwhile, can pay hundreds of dollars for test preparation classes. “The costs of the process are very high,” notes Williston Director of College Counseling Catherine McGraw, “but we want our students to explore their options and not feel limited.”
Toward that goal, Williston’s Financial Aid Office, in partnership with the College Counseling Office, launched a grant program for qualified students to support their college application process. Seniors can receive up to $500 to use toward those expenses; juniors $250. Ten students participated in the program in 2017-18.
“It was a very successful first year,” says McGraw. “Students took advantage of it in very responsible ways. In some cases, they used the fund for travel to a college that they might not otherwise have been able to visit. In other cases, it might have been used primarily to cover application and testing fees to apply to multiple colleges.” McGraw says she has already received an email of thanks from a parent whose daughter used the program to apply to several colleges so she could compare financial aid packages, and ended up receiving a generous scholarship.
The program was so effective that the Financial Aid Office has increased the funding to $500 for juniors as well. “It’s a very modest amount of money in the grand scheme of things,” says McGraw, “but for the students who received it, it was something that really helps.”