Fewer high school students in Maine apply to college

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Fewer high school students are applying to public universities in Maine than before the pandemic, as the coronavirus disrupted most elements of the traditional college search and application process.

Fewer applications could come especially from low-income students and those who would be the first in their families to attend university, reflecting a national trend.

So far, the seven universities in the University of Maine system have received 13 percent fewer applications from high school students this academic year compared to a year ago. Applications from students in Maine declined twice as fast as applications from out of state. In addition, the number of high school students in Maine filling out the free application for federal student aid fell 6% from last year.

In recent months, as high school students filled out applications, they did not have the same opportunities as before the pandemic to speak with students and faculty, visit college campuses, meet admissions staff who frequently pass by. Fall to visit high schools and work with their guidance counselors to figure out how to pay for college, according to University of Maine system administrators and high school counselors.

“Most years, our low-income first-generation students are the ones who typically need the most support,” said Troy Wagstaff, a guidance counselor at Orono High School. “It’s a group that is particularly at risk this year, and our ability to support them throughout this continues to be a real challenge.”

Universities across the country have seen a drop in requests this year, with low-income and potential first-generation students accounting for a disproportionate share of the decline.

To deal with the situation in Maine, the university system is planning a series of virtual events to bring in high school students with financial aid experts, students and admissions experts, as well as opportunities to virtually visit campuses. . The events are the result of a partnership with the Maine Department of Education and the Finance Authority of Maine, which administers college loan and savings programs.

Every Wednesday evening from February through April, a campus in the UMaine system will host its own event to promote this campus regionally, but students from anywhere can attend. The public university system will also host system-wide virtual conventions on two Saturday mornings.

“One of the mantras we frequently share with students is to create as many options as possible,” said Lisa Hallen, director of guidance at Waterville Senior High School. “When they have multiple options, they are also likely to face fewer limitations. It is essential to know that it is not too late for seniors and their families to apply from their home.

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