TWIN FALLS — It’s crunch time for high school seniors who are applying for college.

This week, they’re getting a little extra help. It’s College Application Week, a 5-year-old initiative sponsored by the Idaho State Board of Education and part of a nationwide program. Across Idaho, 80 high schools are participating.

About half of Idaho’s high school seniors continue their education within a year of graduating. The state wants to boost that rate, partly to help meet workforce needs.

With initiatives like College Application Week and the state paying for every junior to take the SAT in the spring, “it’s all about putting the different ingredients together to make it easier for students to pursue their college goals,” Idaho State Board of Education spokesman Blake Youde said.

This week, students will spent a class period talking about college and working on applications.

In his government class Monday, Canyon Ridge High School student Mike Carberry, 17, was planning to apply to the University of Idaho during one of his classes.

He’s also applying to Washington State University, Montana State University and University of Utah. He plans to study business management and finance.

“I think you need to do it early because it takes a lot more time than you realize,” he said of the applications.

Mike and many of his classmates at Canyon Ridge are planning to wrap up college applications this week. Many have also filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a requirement if students are seeking scholarships or loans to help pay for college.

Students are getting help with their college applications from school employees and volunteers from several Idaho colleges and universities, including the College of Southern Idaho.

Here in south-central Idaho, a handful of schools are participating in College Application Week: Canyon Ridge High, Twin Falls High School, Magic Valley High School, Minico High School in Rupert, Mt. Harrison High School in Heyburn, Filer, Hansen, Kimberly, Buhl, Burley High School, Declo High School and Raft River High School in Malta.

One change this year: There’s a new “Apply Idaho” online common application students can use to apply to all of Idaho’s public colleges and universities for free.

Mike finds help with college applications and financial aid through Canyon Ridge’s GEAR UP office. “There’s a lot of stuff I think kids aren’t prepared for,” he said.

Something that helps: More than 20,000 Idaho high school seniors have already been accepted to Idaho’s public colleges and universities for fall 2018. Students received admission letters in September.

It’s the third year of the state board’s Direct Admissions Initiative. Students are accepted to schools based on their grade-point average and college entrance-exam score.

Students still need to submit an application for schools they’re interested in.

Canyon Ridge High student Amani Adem, 18, is applying to Boise State University and wants to become an optometrist. She has visited the BSU campus twice and said she likes it.

Through Canyon Ridge’s GEAR UP grant, there are opportunities for students to go on trips to visit college campuses, Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner said.

Amani, who arrived in Twin Falls as a refugee, will be the first generation in her family to go to college.

Classmate Brison Tilo, 17, is aiming to go to college in Utah, where he has many family members, but has also applied to Colorado State University and Montana State University.

He’ll also be a first-generation college student. He wants to study either physical therapy or engineering.

Ben Carberry, 17 — Mike’s brother — is applying to University of Utah, Montana State University and University of Idaho. He plans to study business, entrepreneurship or marketing.

Beyond College Application Week, students will have access to more help in the coming months as they decide what to do after high school.