State Board opens free college application website

In less time than it takes to fix dinner, Idaho high school students can apply to 10 local colleges and universities online for free.

Students may use their smartphones, tablets or computers through the state’s Apply Idaho program, which opened Monday for its second year of online applications.

All of the state’s public colleges and universities (Boise State University, University of Idaho, Idaho State University, Lewis-Clark State College, College of Eastern Idaho, College of Southern Idaho, College of Western Idaho and College of North Idaho) are participating, as well as the College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University.

And while any Idaho high school student may use the program, there is a special incentive for thousands of seniors to click and apply. On Friday, the State Board of Education began mailing college acceptance letters to about 22,000 students through the direct admissions program. Any student who receives a direct admissions letter has already and automatically been accepted into some or all of Idaho’s public colleges or universities, based on their grades and SAT or ACT score.

Look for the State Board of Education’s logo on the envelope to find your direct admissions letter.

By sending the direct admissions letters, waiving application fees that often cost $50 or $60 per school and using Apply Idaho as a one-stop application hub, state officials hope to make it easier for students to go on.

“It’s easy for students to think, ‘I just can’t picture myself making that step,’” State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said. “Our hope is by reading this letter and seeing their name on it and finding out in person they have been accepted that students will be inclined to move forward, especially those who may not be thinking along those lines right now.”

To take the next step after receiving the admissions letter, all students have to do is visit the Apply Idaho program, create a free online account and answer some basic questions. Within about 15 minutes, each applicant will receive a message confirming their college applications have been submitted successfully.

The programs are part of a new strategy in Idaho’s ongoing effort to convince more students to attend and complete college.

“The big idea is to let every kid and their family know there is an opportunity after high school, whatever they choose,” College and Career Advising Program Manager Byron Yankey said.

Last year, 8,814 students logged on during Apply Idaho’s first year, filling out an average of 2 1/2 college applications. With a year to study the launch and additional time to spread the word, State Board officials hope to increase usage this year.

State Board officials offered test drives of Apply Idaho before Monday’s launch, in an attempt to smooth out the process and ensure it works with mobile devices and computers alike.

Because Apply Idaho applications are tied to student identification numbers, students don’t have to rummage through transcripts, calculate GPAs or double-check college entrance exam scores. The state tracks and stores this data.

“On our field tests, the average amount of time it took for them to go through whole process with one or two colleges ranged from 13 to 17 minutes,” Yankey said. “The whole idea is to make the whole process easier to opt in than it is to opt out.”

After students finish their applications, they may enter additional information to see if they qualify for scholarships or financial aide, and visit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid website, which has been optimized for mobile use.

What students need before using Apply Idaho:

  • Their legal name.
  • Birthdate.
  • Their EDUID number (usually their student number, but students may check with their school counselor if they are unsure what their EDUID number is).
  • A personal e-mail address that students will retain after graduating from high school (students should not use their school email address).
  • A cell phone, tablet or computer to access the Internet.
  • Visit www.nextsteps.idaho.gov and click “Apply Idaho” to get started. A free demo video is also available.

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