WESTROOK – Westbrook High School hosted representatives from 11 universities throughout New England and beyond for its fourth annual College Week, which provides seniors with the opportunity to have one-on-one interviews with college admissions personnel.

College Week, held the week of Dec. 9, works to break down barriers for students by streamlining the college application process, said Karl Francis, a guidance counselor at Westbrook High School.

Francis said that while the week is focused on establishing direct relationships with college admissions staff, getting students involved in the application process starts at the beginning of the school year, when students write college essays and fill out applications as part of their English classes.

“We collaborate with English classrooms to make sure applications are in and submitted (on time),” he said. “It makes a difference when reps have already had a chance to review the applications before they get here.”

During the week, 143 students received one-on-one interviews, with a majority resulting in on-the-spot decisions from college representatives.

Francis said of those 143, 50 took the Accuplacer Entrance Exam for no charge at the high school. The exam is a requirement to get into a community college.

“It’s just a huge barrier because of the cost of the exam, and the logistics of getting over to the campus,” he said. “Sometimes this prevents them from even applying to school.”

Admissions representatives from Husson and Quinnipiac universities were in the building Dec. 12 for scheduled interviews with Westbrook seniors. Two such seniors were J.J. Garcia and Emily Mullen.

Garcia, who was accepted to the University of Southern Maine on Dec. 11, is hoping to get into the criminal justice program at Husson. Garcia said Westbrook’s program has helped him prepare for life after high school.

“It’s been really helpful because my parents never went to college and they don’t know what its like to apply,” he said.

Garcia added that he’d like to become a police officer and work in a K-9 unit.

Mullen, who had a face-to-face meeting with Bill Romano, the associate director of admissions at Quinnipiac University on Dec. 12, said that College Week is a great opportunity for high school students.

She believes that because most of the college application process is behind a computer screen or paperwork, meeting with college representatives makes it a reality.

“They get to meet you and put a face to the name,” she said.

Prior to his meeting with Mullen, Romano said that programs such as Westbrook’s, which are rare among most high schools they visit, are a great recruiting tool for colleges.

“On our end, its great to be able to tell somebody that they’ve been admitted,” he said. “It’s a stressful time for many seniors, and they might not have the opportunity to make the 31?2-hour drive to our campus.”

Romano said that during an average fall, he visits roughly 45 high schools, but only three or four have programs known as “on-site admissions,” such as at Westbrook.

Francis said that when the program began four years ago, it was the result of a push to increase post-secondary aspirations and college attendance for Westbrook students, and now the “College Week” is one of the most in-depth initiatives in Maine.

“I saw a pattern of bright students not going on to college,” he said. “It’s the simple barriers that we can address that can change the situation.”

Following her meeting with Romano, Mullen exited the conference room beaming. She had been accepted into Quinnipiac’s program in physical therapy, the first step toward her dream job.

Following her meeting with Quinnipiac University admissions representative Bill Romano on Dec. 12, Emily Mullen was accepted into the school’s physical therapy program. Westbrook High School’s College Week provided seniors with one-on-one interviews with admissions representatives from 11 universities.

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