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A new incentive program is lighting a fire under rising college students across the country. It comes as millions of North Carolina high schoolers get ready to take the leap to higher education. However, the College Board’s Senior Director, Kathleen Koch, says the process is less like a leap…and more like a hike.

“We’ve heard from students and families across the nation that the college application process can be confusing and sometimes a little overwhelming,” Koch told My Carolina’s Valonda Calloway.

Your college application can make or break your chances of getting into the school of your dreams. In addition to being a way for students to sell themselves to an admissions board, the application process can also determine what scholarships you’re eligible for, what high school class credits will – or won’t – count towards your freshman year, and much more.

Unfortunately, when coupled with the excitement and anticipation of post-high school independence, a relaxed senior year, and the ever-worsening cases of “senioritis”, the stressful and often tedious application process rarely gets the attention it deserves. It’s a mistake the College Board wants to make sure students never make again. That’s why the organization is dedicating $25 million over the next five years to rewarding students who take a proactive role in the application process.

The College Board is offering several scholarships to students who show initiative in their college prep. The scholarships are being offered in the form of several different tiers. Koch says the amount awarded will vary based on how many of the six critical college admission steps a student takes. Candidates who complete all six steps will be eligible for a $40,000 scholarship.

Watch the video above to learn more about the College Board Opportunity Scholarship and how you can maximize your chances of earning the top-tier award. Click here to learn more about eligibility and the different scholarships available.