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Bitterroot Valley Schools are participating in Montana College Application Week a program with Gear Up Montana to help students apply to Montana colleges.

Usually the application process costs money but this week students applying to participating four-year or two-year programs can receive a deferment or a waiver of that fee.

Stevensville High School counselor Steven Coop said the deferment could be a big financial help to applicants.

“It usually costs $35 to $50 to apply but any student that applies this week will not have to pay, depending on the college,” Coop said. “It’s a huge reason to apply this week.”

Coop said deferred fees are also helpful in that students do not have to pay right away.

“If they defer the application fee and the student is admitted to the school and chooses to go there the college will add it onto their first semester’s tuition,” Coop said. “The advantage is that they can use scholarships or financial aid to pay for those costs. It makes it easier.”

Some colleges are completely waiving fees this week and students do not pay for applying.

“The school eliminates the fee for applying,” Coop said. “It’s a big thing.”

Thursday and Friday of this week Coop will assist seniors during their English class to complete an application to at least one college.

“That way I can get every kid and if they are not in school I can call them at home and let them know to apply from there,” Coop said. “We currently have 71 seniors and are hoping to have between 90 and 100 percent of them with at least one college application so they know the process.”

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) deadline has moved up; instead of January through March, the process is now October through December. The improved time line has families working with tax returns and financial information in hand.

“They’ve moved it up three months and you get to use your prior, prior year taxes,” Coop said. “You apply in 2016 and you use 2015 tax returns. Now you apply for financial aid using those numbers.”

Coop said the tax information is now available for FAFSA online directly from the Internal Revenue Service, making the process even easier.

Stevensville High School is hosting a FAFSA night for parents on a drop-in basis, during the parent teacher conferences 3-6 p.m. on Nov. 16.

At Victor High School teachers are wearing stickers indicating they are college graduates and encouraging students to ask them about their college experiences.

School Counselor Cynthia Davidson-Martin and AmeriCorps VISTA Member for College Access Michelle Siebert attended senior writing classes and assisted students in applying to Montana colleges.

Victor is hosting a free FAFSA parent night sponsored by Reach Higher 5-7 p.m. on Nov. 7.

“The FAFSA process for Federal Student Aid has changed so attendees will learn about the new process and new deadlines for getting financial aid to go to college,” Davidson-Martin said. “Reach Higher is providing dinner for the event.”

Seniors in the Florence-Carlton School District applied to one Montana college Wednesday.

Sherry Williams, school counselor, said, “Teachers and staff will be wearing their Alma Mater attire that day. Representatives from the Bitterroot College will also be there to help students with questions.”

At Corvallis, seniors complete a college application and teachers of all grades participate by reminding students they attended college and are available to answer questions.

Dean of Students Cammie Knapp said the week has created a culture that expects education to continue after high school.

“Administration, teachers and students are working together specifically during this week for the benefit of students’ post-secondary choices,” Knapp said. “The door decorations, posters, the college attire being worn by teachers, help students get excited about their future and that we as a school are helping support their future plans.”

Knapp said having a week dedicated to completing college applications sends a strong message encouraging continued education and life-long learning.

“College application week helps students take a big step towards their future,” Knapp said. “A majority of students leave after the day with at least completing one college application, if not more.”

Corvallis High School hosted a free FAFSA parent night Wednesday.

Seniors in Darby High School applied to one Montana college on Tuesday according to counselor Kurt Kohn.

“School officials were assisted by faculty members of Bitterroot College on Tuesday,” Kohn said. “Tuesday night was also the FAFSA night where students and parents learned detailed knowledge on financial aid, scholarship applications, the ACT Test, and college applications. A high number of Darby seniors plan on attending college in 2017.”

Darby teacher Bryan Dufresne said the College Access Week opens the door for all students to pursue a degree or a trade.

“It fosters thought, begins conversations and really puts an emphasis on students’ futures, where they hope to go and what they plan on doing after high school,” he said.

At Hamilton High School, seniors are working in the computer labs on Wednesday and Thursday during English class, receiving assistance from counselors and staff from Bitterroot College.

“We will work with the senior English teacher who will help the students with scholarship essays and we will play financial aid bingo,” said counselor Ellen Ryter. “We will also have a drop-in FAFSA completion night from 3 to 8 p.m. on Thursday.”

Ryter said Montana College Application Week encourages post-secondary education and planning through two year, tribal, private or public campuses.

“We have several students who are first generation college students and this opportunity is a great way to walk students through the college application process,” she said. “We help provide an avenue for all students to know the value and importance of post-secondary education.”

For more information about Montana College Application Week, and to see the list of participating Montana Colleges, visit online mus.edu/gearup/caw.asp.

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