The new college reality for Butler County students: Apply in the morning, accepted by the afternoon

When Hamilton High School senior Tanner Hamblin woke up early Wednesday morning, he didn’t suspect that by noon he would have applied to and been accepted by two colleges.

But that’s the new, speedy pace for many seniors at Hamilton and other area high schools as the college application process becomes increasingly streamlined and accessible.

Hamilton High School hosted a record 21 colleges and universities at its annual “College Application Day” this week, and hundreds of seniors also found themselves closer to being college bound by the end of their school day.

Hamblin chatted with representatives from the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. He liked what he heard enough to sit down at the rows of laptops to apply to both schools.

Minutes later, he was accepted for fall 2020 classes, and it cost him nothing.

“The college fair is a beautiful opportunity for all the students here. And a lot of the schools are waving their application fees so this is a great way for students to get into schools and get an idea of where they could end up for the next two or four years,” he said.

Participating schools included Xavier University, University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, Miami University, Wright State, Northern Kentucky University and Morehead State as the college fair took over Hamilton’s gym.

“It’s a wonderful event. I really like how Hamilton is breaking out the computers so students can do an application right here,” said Katie Lowe, an admissions counselor from Cleveland State University.

“They have the application event as well as the instant decision day… because it allows them to apply that day and even potentially get a decision that day.”

Compared to more than a decade ago when Bob Emig started his counseling job at Lakota West High School, the pace of the college application has greatly accelerated.

“It is so different than it used to be. It’s tremendously faster,” said Emig.

This fall’s first official deadline impacting all college-bound high school seniors is Oct. 1, when they can begin to file their FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid), which is necessary for any award of financial aid.

The FAFSA filing dates are Oct. 1 through June 30 for students seeking aid for the 2020-21 college school year.

Submitting the FAFSA application for financial aid early is essential, said Emig, as some colleges distribute a portion of their financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Do it early and know your deadlines,” he said. “It’s important to know what the colleges you are applying for want from you and when they want it.”

Hamilton High School counselor Matt Bradley said the faster pace of the college application processing has proven to be “both a good and bad thing” for high school students.

“I think students appreciate the fact that they find out sooner, but it leads to more anxiety when the decisions are going out,” Bradley said.

For example, he said, one student has already heard back from Ohio State, and another hasn’t, which leaves the second student more nervous about that status.

“I think in some ways, the process has become a little more impersonal via online applications but not through the fault of the universities, necessarily,” he said.

And Emig said because of the digitalization of the application process, schools are asking for more information on student candidates and doing more research into each applicant, he said.

“Now in the electronic age they (colleges) demand more information and they also look at social media,” which Emig said can be a self-defeating lure for some teens who are unthinkingly hurting their collegiate chances for scholarships through inappropriate postings of photos and writings.

“That can knock high school students out of thousands of dollars of scholarships,” he said.

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