How One Workshop Can Give High Schoolers a ‘Ticket to College’

By Marcos Maez | Santa Fe Community College Director of Recruitment and Dual Credit | February 21, 2019

As Director of Recruitment and Dual Credit, I hear directly from high school students about their perceived barriers of going to college. Sometimes, it is as simple as not having any role models to guide them through the steps. In the fall of 2018, one-third of Santa Fe Community College‘s (SFCC) credit students self-identified as first-generation students. For this population, tasks such as taking a placement test or filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can seem daunting.

Seventeen-year-old student, Nicole Guzman, first felt overwhelmed by the task. “My biggest concern was how to pay [for college tuition], since my parents can’t afford it. I wanted to get as much help as possible,” she said. As a Medical Sciences Pathway student at Capital High School, she plans to pursue cardiology. “Going to college has been on my mind since I was little, because I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.”

Guzman attended a Ticket to College Workshop at Capital High School where SFCC staff guided her through the process of filling out the FAFSA, as well as taking ACCUPLACER – an assessment placement tool to evaluate skills in reading, writing, and mathematics.

Since attending the workshop, Guzman has applied for a scholarship from Christus St. Vincent – available to the students who have taken Medical Science Pathways classes at Capital High. So far she’s applied to University of New Mexico, Santa Fe Community College, Eastern New Mexico University, New Mexico State University, and New Mexico Highlands University.

“[The process has been] exciting and a little scary, since it’s my future,” Guzman said. “But it’s great to have choices, so I can decide what I want to do.” As of press time, she had received several acceptance letters and no rejections.

Santa Fe students need more support and guidance during the admissions and financial aid process – because, let’s be honest, it’s an intimidating and lengthy process. For the FAFSA, sometimes just gathering the necessary documents can be the biggest hurdle. Students need their Social Security number, as well as their personal tax information and their parents’ tax statements. The step of creating a FAFSA ID, setting up multiple security questions, and saving the password can also seem like a difficult step.

The amount of personal information can seem intimidating, too. Many students have never discussed their interest in college or inquired directly about finances with their parents. For example, a student might be embarrassed to say that a parent is unemployed. This fact, however, might reveal the student’s financial need and open doors to financial aid. The SFCC team assists the student and parent in filling out the forms without judgement. We try to break down perceived barriers and help them get comfortable by saying, “We’re just here to help you get money for college.”

“I really recommend other students to take the ACCUPLACER and fill out the FAFSA because it is something that will be helpful in the future. There’s always an opportunity for you, and there’s always a door that will open,” Guzman said.

Since the Ticket to College Workshops began in May 2018, 135 high school seniors have participated. Four more sessions at both Santa Fe High School and Capital High School are scheduled through the end of this academic year.

Upcoming Ticket to College Workshops

Capital High School Dates:

March 8

April 5

Santa Fe High School Dates:

April 3

May 3

Opportunity Santa Fe continues to collaborate with Santa Fe Community College in its Ticket to College Workshops in partnership with the Santa Fe Public Schools.