As the Buffalo Public School District continues to encourage students to attend college, many are trying to navigate through the application and financial process. WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley visited one of two College Success Centers set up inside city high schools by the University at Buffalo.
"Exciting and nervous at the same time," Shaniyah Crump is a Bennett High School senior, describing how she's feeling about applying to college.
We found Crump inside the College Success Center at Bennett. She is hoping to attend either Canisius College or UB, but right now, she's finding how complicated and long the college application process can be. The center helps guide students step-by-step.
"I just need stop procrastinating. Coming into the center is helping me because when I get home it's like 'TV or my phone', so the center helps out a lot," said Crump.
Crump is not eligible for the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship. Prior to attending Bennett she was at Sweet Home School student in Amherst, so Crump is seeking other scholarships to help pay the tab and deadlines are drawing near.
"February 2 is a deadline for one scholarship, but for financial aid, my mom's taxes don't come in until the end of January, so it's pushing it," explained Crump.
"The pieces with financial aid, that we work with students on, is the FAFSA, TAP application for New York State and then the Say Yes registration," said Nathan Daun-Barnett, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at UB and Director of the FAFSA completion Project. He serves as director of the centers at Bennett and International Prep.
"When they first come in, they know very little about the process. The timelines is a little overwhelming," Daun-Barnett noted. "Parents will wonder why on Earth we're applying for financial aid now when they're not going to start school in August. They think it should happen around then."
At the college center, UB undergraduate students play a major role in assisting the high school students. Many come from similar backgrounds and are able to answer questions about preparing for college.
"What we really find, and this is where it is so helpful having college students here, is that so many students are apprehensive about the time they will spend on a college campus. What will that look like? What does it mean to live in a residence hall?," Daun-Barnett explained.
Eugene Steele is also a Bennett senior seeking help at the Center. "They helped me out a lot. Stuff that I don't know that they know. They gave me a lot of knowledge," Steele said.
Steele is first preparing to attend a college prep school in New Hampshire for one year to develop his academic and football playing before he heads on to a college. He said this Success Center has been extremely helpful for his application process.
"First time I came here was a little of me coming down just to see what it was about, but then as procrastinating -- heavy procrastinating, then once I finally realized that either I take initiative or I don't go to college, I really stepped it up, applied for five colleges already," said Steele.
The Success Center are designed to resemble a campus area. The rooms are brightly light with college banners on the wall, application information, computers and even a lounge like area.
Steele and Crump are among last of the seniors and juniors at Bennett. The school is the process of phasing out and will be full transformed into the Middle Early College, which is already operating inside the building.
Maureen England is a Bennett school counselor.
"Many of them are first generation high school graduates and so navigating the whole process is very daunting and it is like learning a foreign language," England said.
England noted that some of the some area colleges like ECC, NCCC and Medaille College provide "instant admissions" for Bennett students.
"They will do instant admissions as long as the students interest in attending, and they're passing everything, and they will give them an acceptance letter based on them successfully graduating in June," explained England.
Ideally Daun-Barnett would like to have a college success center established at all the city high schools.