Helps Students Navigate the Busy Season

High school students in all 100 counties have built dreams around future careers and intellectual ambitions. The North Carolina Countdown to College runs throughout October, motivating high school seniors to turn those dreams into action.

The North Carolina Countdown to College is a month-long push to encourage graduating seniors to envision higher education as a very real possibility. The campaign, orchestrated in collaboration with The College Foundation of North Carolina (, reflects the UNC System’s commitment to making higher education more affordable and making it accessible to more North Carolinians, especially first generation, under-represented, and disadvantaged students. is a free, comprehensive resource designed to help all North Carolina students and families plan, apply, and pay for college. In October, dedicates itself to helping prospective students do the hard work of completing residency, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and application forms—all the essential work prospective students need to accomplish if they want to enroll in a university.

CFNC’s efforts to support high school seniors in completing their applications peaks during the week of October 21-25, 2019, when many of the state’s colleges and universities waive the usual application fees.

Volunteers in 100 Counties

During College Application Week, volunteers at hundreds of high schools across the state to help students wade through the tricky process of completing online applications. The goal is simple: encourage more students to take advantage of the opportunity to apply for free at select institutions.

This year, seven UNC System institutions have waived the standard application fee during College Application Week: East Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, UNC Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University.

By designing a state-wide holiday of sorts around a week when many college applications will be free, encourages students to explore their college options. Waiving these fees removes a financial barrier that could easily dissuade disadvantaged students from applying, and it might incentivize others to explore possibilities they wouldn’t have considered otherwise. During College Application Week 2018, volunteers helped 18,087 students submit 48,847 admission applications and 52,869 electronic high school transcripts. was formed with the express mission of increasing the college-going rate in North Carolina. Its outreach strategies give special attention to low-income, rural, and first-generation college students. Tellingly, during College Application Week 2018, 20,359 applications were submitted from Tier 2 counties and 8,185 applications were submitted from Tier 1 counties.

These numbers suggest that College Application Week plays an important role in encouraging more North Carolinians from disadvantaged communities to embrace higher education as a viable option.

Notably, Elizabeth City State University and UNC Pembroke are NC Promise institutions, where tuition is capped at $500 a semester for in-state students. College Application Week makes applying to these institutions during College Application Week is a no-risk endeavor; the UNC System’s affordability initiative makes enrolling upon acceptance a low-cost opportunity—one that will likely lead to a more prosperous future.

Thousands of Journeys Begin is a collaborative effort between the NC Department of Public Instruction, the NC Community College System, the NC Independent Colleges and Universities, the University of North Carolina System, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, and the non-profit College Foundation, Inc. Since its inception, it has become one of the premier college access programs in the United States. 

The joint effort reflects North Carolina’s dedication to maintaining its constitutional mandate to provide affordable public higher education.

October is a month of seasonal change. For many high school seniors, it marks the beginning of their higher education journey. Some will adjust course during their college careers, but most of those who apply for college have started down the path toward life-changing learning opportunities and exciting careers.

College Application Week is an important milestone, where daydreams give way to a new level of dedication that will eventually transform professional aspirations into reality.