Southeast Michigan high school seniors have an opportunity to learn, apply, and in some cases, get accepted to college at the DRDFS Apply Day.

For hundreds of Detroit-area high school students, getting accepted to college and continuing their educational journey is the culmination of a three-year Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) program experience that is all about helping them take that all-important next step to post-secondary education.

Which is why it was such a thrill for Miranda Alonzo, a Detroit Cristo Rey High School student who attended Apply Day, to find out at the event that she was one of the students who had been accepted to Eastern Michigan University (EMU).

“I was looking forward to checking out several colleges, but EMU was one I really wanted to apply to,” said Miranda. “I filled out some paperwork, submitted my transcript, and they got back to me right away with an acceptance letter and a scholarship offer. It happened so quickly, and it was such an incredible feeling.”

Miranda was one of more than 100 Metro Detroit high school seniors involved in the DRDFS Next Level Scholars Program who attended Apply Day on Wednesday, October 25, 2023 at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor. A college fair environment with representatives from universities, community colleges and trade schools across the region in attendance, Apply Day gives DRDFS program participants the chance to attend FAFSA and financial literacy workshops, a scholarship information session, and a college transition seminar led by DRDFS transition coaches. The highlight for many, however, was the potential for an on-site college acceptance experience like Miranda’s.

According to DRDFS Program Director Marissa D’Angelo, there were almost 50 colleges, universities, and trade schools in attendance, including The University of Detroit Mercy, Central Michigan University, Grand Valley University, Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Western Michigan University.

“It’s so rewarding to be there and watch as these students we’ve worked so closely with for years realize their dream of a college education become a reality,” said D’Angelo. “Like Miranda, many of the students will be the first-ever in their families to attend college.”

For Detroit Cristo Rey High School student Melanie Barron, who plans to apply to her self-described dream school, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the event was a chance to broaden her horizons and continue what has been a remarkable experience with DRDFS.

“My experience with DRDFS has been great,” said Melanie. “It’s offered me so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and it has consistently pushed me to put myself out there. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and the experience.”

One of those opportunities turned into acceptance reality for Melanie, as she was accepted on-site to EMU. EMU college admissions professional Misty Sparrow says that the school was able to complete 20 on-site admissions at the event and connected with many other students who are planning to apply to EMU in the future.

“This is such an important event,” said Misty. “Because it gives students a chance to hear from these institutions and learn about their options and financial aid possibilities—everything they need to make sure they are prepared for the next step in their educational journey. I work closely with DRDFS as an on-campus partner at Eastern, where we host a DRDFS event every January. It’s been so fun to see the students here today, some of whom I recognize from attending our on-campus event two years ago.”

Clintondale High School Counselor Courtney Carroll said, “All eight of the students we brought today were accepted to EMU, a full-circle moment considering that EMU was their first college trip as sophomores. In a process that can feel so overwhelming, this is such a fun kickoff to senior year.” Courtney was particularly complimentary of the financial literacy piece of the Apply event. “I know from my own experience how abstract things like student loans and interest rates seemed when I was younger,” she explained. “So it’s powerful to see them learning these valuable insights.”

University of Michigan-Flint representative Nikolas Davis gave kudos to DRDFS for planning and hosting the Apply event. Davis pointed out that the benefits go both ways. “This is obviously a great opportunity for students, but it’s also a great opportunity for universities, as well. It’s gratifying to talk to students who were already interested in our university, but also to talk to those who hadn’t heard of us before and now want to know more.” Davis says University of Michigan-Flint was able to offer on-site admission to about 10 to 15 students.

Milestone moments like the ones so many students experienced at this year’s Apply event are part of what makes DRDFS so impactful to so many. It’s why students like Miranda Alonzo are “so grateful to be a part of this program that means so much to me—and to so many other students like me.”

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