ROCKLAND — For many high school seniors, now is likely peak “intensity” for applying to college. That includes submitting applications, essays, transcripts, references, and SAT scores – which can start in late summer and last through early spring.

Students in the Aspirations Incubator program, which includes Trekkers, may feel a little less pressure, though. High school graduates from these programs who have a 3.0 grade point average or above will receive a minimum merit scholarship of $500 and automatic admission to the University of Maine at the Orono and Machias campuses. More recently, the University of Southern Maine has agreed to offer this to students as well.

All of these students participate in program models with long-term mentoring and experiential learning. Data from these sites show increases in students’ critical social-emotional skills and aspirations development, promoting social-emotional well-being and academic engagement. Students from these programs can simply check a box in the online application to confirm their participation.

The decision to provide both automatic admission and scholarship demonstrates the universities’ confidence in these models and in the students who have spent years building lifelong social-emotional skills and aspirations. This is the first year that students can utilize this option for a 2023 college enrollment.