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Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
On Saturday, Siri Briscoe helps herself to breakfast at the charter Academy for Math, Engineering & Science. The school had professionals on hand to help students get their pre-college paperwork going.

For a high-schooler, getting ready for college is as simple as registering for and taking the ACT, filling out voluminous financial aid application documents, searching and applying for scholarships and completing applications for schools — and paying the fees.

The only difficult parts are registering for and taking the ACT, filling out voluminous financial aid application documents, searching for scholarships and completing applications for particular schools — and paying the fees.

So the administration at the Academy for Math, Engineering & Science, a charter school housed at Cottonwood High School, hosted an "Omelets and Admissions" event Saturday morning. Principal Al Church spread a table with breakfast food and had some professional aid on hand to help students get their pre-college paperwork going.

"It's a maze, a jungle," Church said of the process. And with 40 percent of his student body coming from homes with no college background, the process can appear daunting. "Some of these kids don't know how to work in the adult environment."

For one student, the hang-up was not having the $46 on hand that needed to accompany an application. Another student hit a roadblock Saturday when a Web site offering registration help for financial aid wanted an up-front fee of $75 — an unnecessary expense because a government Web site allows students to go through the same process free.

Aretha Minor, director of the Utah College of Advising Corps from the University of Utah, spotted that trap right off, grabbed the attention of the 25 or so students in the lab and had them make note of the the free-registration Web site.

Minor's corps works to help students from underprivileged backgrounds seek out scholarships, make campus visits and overcome the inertia of the unknown in the college-application process. The corps is currently working with students in eight Granite and two Salt Lake district high schools.

"We supplement what counselors are doing," said college access advisor Rachael Roberts. Church said the typical high school counselor may be responsible for several hundred students and have to spend most of their time dealing with scheduling changes, in-school academics and discipline problems. "Even the most dedicated counselors run out of time before they spend more than a few minutes helping a student with the college process."

Saturday's event was timely because deadlines for some components of the college-application process for next fall can be as early as February.


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