NC Countdown to College

October 2024

Residency | FAFSA | Applications

About NC Countdown to College

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, and 293 high schools participated. During this period, North Carolina’s annual event became a pattern for dozens of other states to create annual week-long and month-long programs. In 2023, North Carolina submitted over 16,000 applications across 460 sites.

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

Due to the success of past College Application Weeks and 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. During one week in October, some colleges adjust application fees by either accepting fee waivers from eligible students or waiving application fees. This is called College Application Week.

The NC Countdown to College advisory committee comprises K-16 educational partners from across the state and is chaired by staff within CFNC.CFNC includes the NC Community Colleges, NC Independent Colleges and Universities, the University of North Carolina system, the Department of Public Instruction, NCSEAA, and CFI. FAFSA Day is provided by CFNC and the North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NCASFAA). Financial Aid Awareness Week is also declared each year by the Governor. In addition, the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) provides free FAFSA assistance in the fall. Contact your local branch to make an appointment.