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Giving college applicants a helping hand at PDCCC

The following article is from The Smithfield Times

For many students, applying for college can be daunting. There are forms to fill out, information to gather, strict qualifications and deadlines to meet.

"It's scary," said Paula Craw, vice president of student success and outreach for Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), a non-profit looking to simplify things for high school students approaching graduation.

On Tuesday, Paul D. Camp Community College hosted its first "College Night" at its Smithfield Center, an event sponsored by ECMC to encourage students to apply for college and educate them on how.

The event, incorporated as part of Gov. Terry McAuliffe's "1,2,3 Go!" college initiative in the state, is typically split into four different informational sections for students: outlining the benefits and "importance" of a college education, the admissions process, types of financial aid and how to avoid getting scammed, according to Craw.

Craw has said that, by far, the most challenging aspect of the overall process that students and parents experience is seeking financial aid. "It appears to students and parents to be very complicated," Craw said of the application process.

Craw said that the application for federal aid usually only takes about 23 minutes on average to complete.

"But it's still rather intimidating," she said, particularly for first generation college-bound students.

College Night mainly attempts to reach out to juniors in high school, but accepts anyone interested in attending, according to Craw.

Craw said that it's becoming increasingly common for high school students in Virginia to attend two years at a community college before transferring to a larger university.

"It's quite common and really a fantastic idea to do so," said Craw, who added that students could save on tuition through the community college, and still graduate with a full degree from a large institution.

White transferring credits from community college to four-year colleges used to have its difficulties, today the process is much smoother, said Craw. As Isle of Write County high school students prepare to dive into more Career and Technical Education courses next year, Craw said CTE courses could be advantageous for a college-bound student as well.

"We really love to promote the idea that it's a great idea to do a variety of things in high school," said Craw. "I think often there are a wide variety of attributes being considered [during the college appetence process]."

Craw said that there used to be a stigma around not attending a four-year college immediately after high school. However, that's not necessarily the case anymore.

"Things have changed dramatically," said Craw.

Craw said that there are a number of ways to spot scams when applying for scholarships, including phone calls announcing that you've won without having applied.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said Craw.

Having to pay to complete a scholarship application is also a red flag, according to Craw.

"There are so many legitimate scholarships out there, so there would be no reason to that," she said.

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