by Jessica Hickey, staff writer
OLIVIA BUSBY was one of the many seniors filling out a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application during “Michigan College Month” at Owosso High School. Counselor Jerry Ciarlino (right) and other staff members are offering help with the paperwork in the hope of encouraging every senior to apply to at least one college. (Independent Photo/Jessica Hickey)
Applying to college can be an intimidating process, but seniors at Owosso High School are getting a helping hand during “Michigan College Month.” The goal of this program is to create a college-centric culture and specifically, to help every senior complete a FAFSA application for federal financial aid and apply to at least one college. OHS counselor Jerry Ciarlino says that completing the FAFSA is a major indicator of whether a student will follow through on going to college. “Some students may not apply to college because they don’t know if they can afford it or they think their parents make too much to qualify for financial aid,” Ciarlino said. Applying with the help of a teacher or counselor can resolve some of those questions for students.
Olivia Busby filled out her FAFSA application Monday, Oct. 10 with the help of Mr. Ciarlino. “It was pretty easy,” she said. “It’s confusing to do it by yourself, so it’s nice to have someone helping you along the way.” Busby included several schools on her application but is leaning toward CMU or MSU.
Michigan College Month is part the broader nationwide 2020 campaign to increase the number of college graduates in the country. Many local universities are participating by hosting college fairs and waiving application fees during the month of October; for example, Baker College is having a college fair on Oct. 25. One local retailer is even joining in the spirit—Cartronics Wireless Zone in Owosso is donating a $20 gift certificate to every student who completes a FAFSA application in October.
In addition to one-on-one help filling out applications, OHS is offering raffles and prizes for seniors who have participated in the program, and school staff members are showing off their alma mater colors on dress-up Fridays. “One major challenge is
getting more parents involved,” Ciarlino said. To that end, OHS is having a “Plug ‘n Grub” event on Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. in the media center; along with an all-you-can-eat chili meal, students and their parents can get more information and individualized help filling out a free FAFSA application.