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6 schools hold College Application Days

Before you get into college, you have to get through the college application.

Seniors at MC²STEM High School navigated the sometimes daunting and confusing process Monday. It was the first in a series of College Application Day events scheduled this week at six CMSD high schools.

Volunteers worked one on one with students to complete and submit online applications. Some of the volunteers represented colleges and universities that belong to the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland, created three years ago by Mayor Frank G. Jackson to increase the number of CMSD students who enroll in post-secondary education.

Applying to college can be intimidating, particularly if students are the first in their families or social circles to go on to higher education. MC²STEM counselor Michelle Gordon said the seniors she works with catch on quickly but worry about making errors on the first attempt.

Volunteer Carlos Delgado, associate director of admissions at Baldwin-Wallace University, said he sometimes encounters students who are so rattled by writing essays that they avoid colleges that require those. On Monday, he dealt mostly with straightforward questions like how to log in or find a school code.

Michael Cavett of Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood is clear on what he will do after graduating from MC2STEM – 17 weeks of National Guard training followed by pursuit of a degree in engineering – but he needed a little help with the how. College Application Day helped fill in the blanks.

“It just made it simpler,” said Cavett, who submitted an application to the University of Akron and a common application viewed by 500 universities and colleges nationwide. “If you didn’t know how to even start to apply, they would walk you through it. I was lost at first.”

Kirsten Cooper, an MC²STEM student from East Cleveland, plans to study automotive technology. She has been accepted to a community-college program but thought it wise to explore alternatives.

“Anything can happen between now and then,” Cooper said. “I want to have Plan B and C.”

Gordon expected about 40 seniors -- half of an MC2STEM senior class that was designed to be small -- to submit applications Monday. She said those who did not take part Monday have already applied.

The application rate runs high at MC²STEM, an innovative year-round school that holds its ninth-grade classes at the Great Lakes Science Center, 10th-grade classes at GE Lighting’s Nela Park Campus in East Cleveland and 11th-and-12th-grade classes at Cleveland State.

But most of the students have filed in December and January, Gordon said. She wants students to apply by the end of November this year, putting them in position to receive admission and financial aid before the field grows crowded.

College application days are planned Tuesday and Wednesday at John Adams High School, Wednesday at Washington Park, Thursday at James F. Rhodes and New Tech West and Friday at East Tech.

CMSD selected a cross-section of schools to participate in Ohio’s first ever College Application Month and plans to adopt the program in all of the District’s more than two dozen high schools next year.

The District's application days followed other activities that included workshops in completing applications and writing admissions essays.

The Ohio initiative is part of the American College Application Campaign, which aims to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students entering higher education.

CMSD monitors individual students to help them stay on track to graduation. The District is adjusting its system to identify at-risk students before they fall off track instead of after.

CMSD’s new state report card shows that the District’s graduation rate rose to a record 64.3 percent in 2013, the most recent year available. That was up 5 points from the previous year and 12 points since Eric Gordon was named chief executive officer in 2011.

The Compact report, which will soon be updated, also showed an increase in the numbers of students who graduated with a B average or scored at least 21 on the national ACT admissions exam, the threshold for being considered college ready.

The percentage of students completing more than one college application also rose, as did the average number of applications each student submitted. The percentage of students who immediately enrolled in college after high school dipped, leading to the speculation that they were discouraged by the cost.

CMSD is pushing each student to apply to at least four colleges, said Kate Schwab, a curriculum instruction manager in the area of college and career education services.