This fall, Pennsylvania’s College Application Campaign is taking a new approach to ensure more community members apply to college. Approximately 20 libraries across Pennsylvania – from rural state game land areas to the city of Pittsburgh – will host college application completion events.
Why should libraries engage in helping with completing college applications? Two big reasons: first, libraries already play an important role connecting community members to knowledge and opportunity, and second, community members who are traditionally underserved, such as the migrant population, low-income families, those who speak English as a second language, and first-generation college-going students, come to the library for help.
“We already have folks coming into the library asking for help applying to college,” said Susan Banks, director, Bureau of Library Development for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “Our libraries are thrilled to get training and insight in the college application process to better serve the community.”
Many of the libraries have already expressed their gratitude for the resources available online for host sites and excitement to strengthen relationships with higher education institutions. Often when an individual arrives at the library asking for help on the college application process, it is individuals looking to transfer colleges or adults looking to apply to college for the first time.
In addition to meeting the needs of the libraries, this partnership will help Pennsylvania reach its goal to have 60 percent of the population aged 25-64 hold a postsecondary degree or industry-recognized credential by the year 2025.
“When we looked closer at our goal, we realized the graduating class of 2020 is the last year of high school graduates who can help us reach 60 percent by 2025,” said Mike Dotts, Pennsylvania application campaign state coordinator and higher education associate for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “We brainstormed how to reach more individuals outside the traditional high school setting and recognized libraries as key partners.”
The American College Application Campaign (ACAC), an initiative of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, is working with Pennsylvania to determine what the events look like and how to track data. ACAC and the state campaign will look at which audiences to expect versus who actually participates. The good news is that libraries are used to being flexible and engaging in free-form activities. The libraries are willing to give it a try, measure the impact, and adjust for improvement.
While this is considered a pilot year for Pennsylvania, other ACAC state campaigns are being encouraged to consider asking libraries about participation for the 2019 college application campaign season or in the future.
Libraries and community-based organizations can get involved with the American College Application Campaign by participating in #WhyApply Day Friday, September 20, a national day to celebrate the college application season by sharing supportive and motiving messages on social media about the importance of applying to college.
We’re thrilled to see libraries in Pennsylvania willing to join the college application campaign and support community members on their journey to postsecondary education.