Bryant Ramirez hunched over a worksheet Monday listing the private colleges where he plans to apply and, next to each one, whether he thinks he has a good shot of getting in.
It wasn’t long before the senior had written out his top choice — the Pratt Institute, a private college in Brooklyn — and fired up a school laptop to begin filling out an electronic application.
“I feel confident,” Ramirez said of his chances of landing a spot at one of his preferred schools. “But you never know.”
On Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited Ramirez and more than 20 of his peers at Manhattan’s Pace High School to showcase a growing citywide program designed to give schools more time and resources to help students through the college application process.
The program, called “College Access for All,” is meant to address the gap between students whose families already understand the application process and can help give them a leg up, and those who might be first-generation college students or who might not apply at all. This year, the education department expanded the program to include roughly 274 of the city’s high schools, or more than half of the total.
Participating schools help students craft post-graduation plans for specific careers or colleges, and ease the application process through school-sponsored college visits and additional counseling.
“More students are saying ‘I want to go to college,’” Fariña said. “This levels the playing field.”
At Pace, which is part of the program, students begin conversations about college in their advisory groups junior year, and later take college counseling classes where they are given time to fill out applications, financial aid forms, and learn about the college application process. The school also offers the SAT during a school day (instead of the weekend, when some students might not make it), and takes juniors and seniors on college visits — trips that school leaders are planning to extend to ninth and tenth graders.
Lancia Burke, the school’s college counselor, said some of those initiatives didn’t exist when she started at Pace 11 years ago and tried to cram as much information as possible into a single workshop with the entire senior class. (She also met with students individually.)
At one point, she felt overwhelmed as she tried helping students craft their college essays, so she approached the English department.
“‘Hey, I can’t handle going through all these personal essays,’” Burke recalled saying. After that, the department added college essay writing into their curriculum, she said.
The College Access for All program is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Equity and Excellence” agenda, which aims to get 80 percent of students to graduate high school on time and two-thirds of graduates college-ready by the year 2026.
About 51 percent of New York City’s graduates were considered college ready in 2016, meaning they could enroll at a CUNY school without having to take remedial classes, a 4 percentage point increase since 2014. The proportion of students who enroll in college or a work-training program within six months of graduating has also ticked up to 55 percent, also 4 percentage point increase since 2014.
Fariña said she hopes the program boosts the number of students who apply to college. But simply applying to college isn’t enough, she added.
“We always want to see the numbers going up in terms of applying,” Fariña said. “But once you get there, do you stay there?”