College Fair expects diverse crowd | AspenTimes.com

College Fair expects diverse crowd

John Colson
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Organizers are expecting 2,000 people ” including students, parents and roughly 200 college representatives and others ” to descend on Aspen for the 2007 Western Slope College Fair on Sunday, Oct. 7.

The event, organized chiefly by Kathy Klug at Aspen High School, is the only opportunity most high school students on the Western Slope will have to see ” and to be seen ” by college admissions representatives as the students prepare for their college careers.

Klug, who has been the AHS college counselor for the past two years, said she expects about 160 colleges and universities to send representatives to Aspen this week, up from 130 last year.

Among those sending reps, Klug said, are all 24 universities and colleges in Colorado, which she took as a validation that Western Slope students are a valuable commodity for schools everywhere.

Klug said that some 56 Western Slope high schools are expected to send students and their parents to the fair, from tiny communities such as Mancos and Dove Creek to the urban centers of Durango and Grand Junction, as well as every school in the Roaring Fork Valley area.

“We’re a gift to the people of the Western Slope,” Klug said, noting that the event costs about $20,000, which is underwritten by $10,000 from Alpine Bank and another $10,000 raised by Klug and her small army of volunteers.

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Klug said her salary is paid by a combination of grants from the Aspen Education Foundation (50 percent), the Aspen Community Foundation (30 percent) and the school district (20 percent).

“We take the college search process very seriously,” she said. “We are a community-based, community paid-for fair.”

The event will take place at Aspen High School, beginning with a brunch in the school commons area at 9:30 a.m. But the main action is slated from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with tables set up in the old Skier Dome gymnasium and in the new, much larger main gym. It is set for a Sunday, Klug said, because the college reps are booked to attend college fairs on the Front Range in the ensuing days, which makes the Western Slope College Fair the first in the state every year.

Klug starts working with students in their junior year, setting up workshops for students and parents and “face-to-face” meetings so that families are prepared to dive into the search process once the senior year begins.

The preparation for the college fair takes months every year, and includes everything from contacting admissions departments at colleges and universities, inviting area high schools to participate, and arranging for the printing and distribution of an informational packet for the college reps.

Nestled in the packet is a “demographics sheet” that describes the fair’s service area, encompassing 27 of Colorado’s 63 counties, spread over more than 47,000 square miles of the Western Slope region and serving nearly 85,000 students in all grades.

Klug also arranges for a variety of activities for the reps to participate in, or not, on Saturday, including rafting the local rivers to hiking, swimming or skating at the Aspen Recreation Center, golfing at the Snowmass Club, or simply strolling around town with the Aspen Sojourner’s self-guided tour in hand.

Plus, on Saturday evening, there are receptions at the homes of two local families, to give the reps “an opportunity to relax and meet with ambassadors from the Roaring Fork Valley,” according to a handout included in the packet.

On Sunday, while students check out the tables in the two gymnasiums, there also will be small workshops on such topics as “Admissions to Highly Selective Schools,” “The College Search: Finding the College that is Right for You” and “Everything You Need to Know about Merit-based Scholarships.”

Klug said that she is careful to require that all colleges represented at the College Fair have a physical campus and an accreditation of some kind, in order to eliminate “fly-by-night” Internet schools and others that might be little more than scams and frauds.

After the fair, she said, there will be a long weekend break for the students, which is intended to give them and their families a chance to travel to schools that they think they want to apply to but need a visit to make sure.

John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com.

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