Trinity High School’s class of 2020 has broken the record for the amount of scholarship money offered, with the total at $33.6 million, an average of $314,000 per graduating student. Katie Granholm, college counselor at Trinity, said the amount is more than $9 million over the school’s previous record. 

Granholm said she’s proud of the students, who worked hard not just academically but during the college application process as well.

“They’re undaunted,” Granholm said.

Granholm’s goal is to provide the students with all the resources and guidance they need to apply to colleges.

“I make a concerted effort to really help the students feel empowered and prepared,” Granholm said. “I want to take the ‘scary’ out of it.” The students this year, she said, went into the application process with confidence.

One of the most important parts of college counseling, said Granholm, is guiding students in researching and applying to the right colleges. At Trinity, the students are diverse in many ways, including economically. So Granholm makes a point of telling students who will need more financial help about schools that traditionally offer a lot of assistance.

“I try to steer kids toward the colleges and universities that give generous aid,” said Granholm. “Cost is a big part of the decision on where a person will attend college.”

Claire Hanley, a senior at Trinity, is the oldest of five children, so the process of applying to colleges was brand new for her. 

“During my junior year, I was so stressed about it,” Hanley said. “I wanted to start the process as early as possible.” She went on college visits, toured campuses, did research. “I think I went through seven drafts of my college essay,” she said.

In the end, it was all worth it. She was accepted into the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she plans to study business. But she was accepted into several other colleges and received scholarship offers totaling over $254,000.

Granholm said the bulk of scholarships come from colleges and universities themselves, although the school keeps a robust database of organizations, including churches and local clubs, that offer money for education. 

As for what college will look like in the fall, Granholm said there will be more clarity by July, when universities will have solid plans in place.

“In my conversations with admissions officers,” said Granholm, “colleges are making A B, C, and D plans. Nothing is firm at this point.”

Granholm said students who are thinking about taking a gap year or postponing enrollment due to the COVID crisis should work closely with their intended college or university, since “these decisions could impact the terms of admission and financial aid.”

Families which have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic and will have a hard time paying for college are encouraged to reach out to the college’s financial aid office. Financial aid packages for students starting college in the fall, said Granholm, are based off of tax returns from 2018. But there are options for students struggling to pay because of recent events.

“Many schools have processes in place to request a financial hardship appeal,” said Granholm. “Colleges are usually willing to consider more recent financial information if a student’s ability to pay has been impacted.”

For students entering their senior year of high school in the fall, Granholm encourages researching colleges now, despite in-person visits and tours being canceled for the time being.

“Just because you can’t visit schools, it doesn’t mean you can’t advance your college search,” Granholm said. She recommends doing a lot of research to find the “right” school. Just because your neighbor went somewhere, for example, doesn’t mean it’s the best place for you to go. 

“A lot of students find schools that might not have been in their line of sight originally,” Granholm said.

She has high hopes for the class of 2020, and confidence that they’ll do well despite the difficult times we’re in right now and the uncertainty of what college will look like in the fall

“This class is so resilient,” said Granholm. “They will figure it out, and they will do so graciously.”

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