High school students from across the Pee Dee had a taste of college life on Thursday, Oct. 14, at the Francis Marion College Fair held in the University Center (UC).
The day-long event consisted of two sessions and drew a crowd of over 2,400 students, parents, high school teachers and administrators.
During the morning session, area high schools bused in their senior students and had them circle the UC gymnasium going from table to table to talk to the over 50 college and university recruiters who were on hand to answer their questions and provide them with information.
The evening session was open to the public and gave parents in the Pee Dee the opportunity to bring their high school juniors and seniors to one convenient location to see a variety of recruiters. The FMU admissions office also arranged for parents to have the option of attending a financial aid workshop where they could learn how to apply for scholarships and loans.
Kelly Rainwater, a local mother who brought her son Hiers to the fair, was pleased that the event made it possible for her and her son to narrow down his choices before physically visiting the school locations.
“I think if you come from a home where the parents are working, it can be really hard to show your child what is available to him or her,” Rainwater said. “We’re glad FMU’s having this. You can get your child to come here without having to spend time and money to go to schools.”
Nikki VanDeWeert, an FMU admissions counselor, said the event does an excellent job of providing students with a better opportunity to see what’s available to them all in one location.
“With an event like this, we bring the colleges to them,” VanDeWeert said.
Although the event is coordinated in part through the Carolinas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (CACRAO), North and South Carolina schools were not the only ones represented at the fair. Colleges and universities from as far away as Rutgers University in New Jersey and Northeastern University in Boston had recruiters on hand to talk to students.
“We are trying to diversify geographically on our campus,” said Northeastern University regional recruiter Heather McCloskey. “It’s a nice way to catch students’ attention, because if I went to their schools they wouldn’t typically be interested, but here I stand out from the crowd.”
Another college recruiter found the fair to be an opportunity to blend in with other schools. Colby Sanders, a recruiter from the all women’s school of Converse College located in Spartanburg, S.C., said that often when she goes to individual high schools girls shy away from her table because they are with their friends or boyfriends. However at a large college fair they are more likely to approach her and ask questions.
“Being a women’s college three hours away, it’s beneficial to reach high school students from high schools all over who wouldn’t normally look at a women’s college,” Sanders said. “Here they can come see what we have to offer without feeling singled out.”
The opportunity to see what a variety of schools had to offer in one location made it possible for Rachel Scarborough, a senior at Emmanuel Christian School in Hartsville, to choose which university she plans to attend next fall.
“As a senior, being able to come here and talk to recruiters and ask them your questions really, really helps you to decide which ones you want to go to and what you like and don’t like,” Scarborough said. “I’m going to Francis Marion. I’ve already decided, so I’m excited.”
Monica Rogers, a teacher at Marion High School, said bringing seniors to the fair can help open their eyes since many do not know what schools and opportunities are out there for them after graduation.
“We bring our seniors here to give them the opportunity to talk one on one with recruiters and ask them questions we can’t answer for them,” Rogers said.
The Citadel’s recruiter, Citadel alumna Sarah Strickland, garnered a lot of attention from young men and women interested in the Charleston military school.
“This has been great, because there are so many people here,” Strickland said. “We’ve had so much interest from students who didn’t even know about the Citadel.”
Another school that drew large crowds was the University of Alabama. Although Alabama regional recruiter, Patti Dinger, had to handle a lot of joking from students referencing the University of South Carolina’s recent win over Alabama’s national championship football team Dinger made it clear that she loved every moment of her job.
“I love these kids,” Dinger said. “I love talking to them as they’re thinking about their future and career. It’s just so much fun to work with them.”