NC Countdown to College

October 2023

Residency | FAFSA | Applications

About NC Countdown to College

The annual college application event is a key part of our programming each year. It allows for students to focus on their college applications in an efficient way. This is a great opportunity for students across the state to take steps to apply to post-secondary institutions with the assistance of counselors, college advisers, teachers, admissions representatives, and other volunteers. College Application Month will help schools build college-going cultures and excite students as they think about their plans after high school.

- Yolanda Keith - Program Director, Carolina College Advising Corps

Background & Overview

College Application Week began as a pilot program in the state of North Carolina in 2005 with just one high school under the federally-funded GEAR UP NC grant. Computers were wheeled around the school on carts as a handful of students used the online application to apply to college.

The event grew in 2006 to serve students in 15 GEAR UP high schools and continued to function in the pilot stage. As other high schools outside the GEAR UP program learned about the pilot, they asked if they could also participate. College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) and the Carolinas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (CACRAO) joined forces to aid in the expansion and support. The number of participating high schools grew to over 100 in 2007 with thousands of students submitting online applications across the state. In 2008, College Application Week became a statewide event with 293 high schools participating. During this period, North Carolina’s annual event became a pattern for dozens of other states to create their own annual week-long and month-long programs.

Event activities are supported by research which indicates that students can better navigate the path to college when high schools can 1) engage and assist students in completing critical steps for college entry, and 2) increase families’ financial awareness, and help students apply for financial aid.

Due to the success of past College Application Weeks and to changes in residency requirements and the FAFSA, NC educational partners expanded the annual event in 2017 to encompass an entire month. Now the event helps support high school seniors in completing three important college enrollment steps: residency, FAFSA, and applications. There is one week (October 16-20, 2023) when some colleges will be adjusting application fees by either accepting fee waivers from eligible students or waiving application fees.

The NC Countdown to College advisory committee consists of K-16 educational partners from across CFNC and CACRAO chaired by the University of North Carolina system office. CFNC includes the NC Community Colleges, NC Independent Colleges and Universities, University of North Carolina system, Department of Public Instruction, NCSEAA, and CFI. CACRAO includes admissions and registrars from across all sectors of NC higher education. FAFSA Day is provided by CFNC and the North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NCASFAA). That week has also been declared Financial Aid Awareness Week by the Governor. In addition, the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) provides free FAFSA assistance in the month of November. Contact your local branch to make an appointment.

Please see the Contact page if you have event-related questions.

I enjoyed and gained so much from College Application Week 2016. It's definitely a process, but it's worth it when you're saving money. I was accepted into my dream school with no application fee - you seriously can't beat that!

- Jynna Perry - Freshman at NC A&T State University

College Application Week has always been a huge benefit to our students. The recognition of the initiative gives us the opportunity to utilize school hours to work with students on the application process. It also brings community members into the school to assist and build relationships with students and faculty. The impetus to make the initiative College Application Month instead of Week is of even greater benefit to students and families. Schools have the opportunity to continue the momentum for an entire month with events, workshops, community partnerships, etc. all while having the additional support of CFNC and the participating colleges/universities.

- Kelly Woody - Graduation Coach (former GEAR UP Coordinator), Person High School


Proudly sponsored by CFNC and CACRAO