College fair is Sunday at Aspen High School | AspenTimes.com

College fair is Sunday at Aspen High School

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

More than 1,700 students attended the 2013 Colorado Western Slope College Fair at Aspen High School last October. The fair staff expects to top that number this year.

If you tried to contact Kathleen Klug this week and she didn't get back to you, she has a legitimate excuse.

Klug, the college fair director and college counselor at Aspen High School, oversees a group of more than 100 volunteers who have worked for the past year to put on the 10th annual Colorado Western Slope College Fair. The fair takes place Sunday at Aspen High School. The first session of college workshops begins at 10 a.m., and the fair itself begins at 11 a.m.

During this final week, Klug is a whirlwind of activity as she organizes almost every aspect of the fair, from scheduling to sign-making.

"It's the busiest week of my year," Klug said. "The fair can be a little overwhelming, and we're spending a lot of time answering questions from students and their families. I'm determined to answer every question we receive. It's a happy busy because this is so important to me."

The free event is specifically for high school students from the 78 Western Slope high schools and their parents. The fair doesn't allow college recruiters; it only allows admission officers from each school. The goal of the event, to connect kids with colleges and give them an opportunity to meet their futures, never changes.

Klug and her staff are passionate about helping rural and city Western Slope teens find the right schools.

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"What you get from a Western Slope student is an authentic, original application that comes from the heart and not an overedited consultant model," Klug said. "There aren't fancy prep centers, overcoached or overtested students here on the Western Slope. You don't find these kids at the Front Range fairs. Students have come from up to eight hours away to be here. They think it makes a difference to attend the fair."

Last year, there were 270 colleges, universities, and two-year and technical schools at the event. This year the number of schools is considerably lower due to scheduling conflicts with other Colorado college fairs. Klug was asked to hold the Western Slope fair later in October so more colleges could attend, but she declined for several reasons.

"We traditionally hold our event the first Sunday in October," she said. "The weather becomes too much of a gamble later in the month, and that's a safety issue. We decided to go rogue this year rather than change the date. We're still the largest educational event on the Western Slope."

In 2013, 1,704 students from 54 Western Slope high schools attended the fair. This year, even with fewer colleges represented, the college fair staff expects to top last year's attendance totals.

This year, the college fair website was upgraded to include more features allowing students access to the colleges that will be at the fair as well as access to every school that attended in the past nine years.

The site has a listing of all the current workshops with descriptions as well as videos from several workshops held in 2012 and 2013.

There's also a resource link geared toward offering information about choosing the right school, information and comments about the schools, scholarship and financial help, majors available and more.

There are three sessions of workshops offered from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with 26 workshops to choose from covering a broad spectrum of topics. There are workshops covering financial aid, applying for scholarships, becoming a college-bound student athlete and other workshops geared toward helping students and their families navigate the college application process.

This year, almost all the workshops will be filmed and posted online later this month.

"We have workshops on colleges that change lives, the Colorado Asset Bill or how to write a college essay," Klug said. "This is the largest student-centered educational event on the Western Slope. We believe it gives access to counseling and colleges for Western Slope students who don't have easy access to these services."

Klug is quick to compliment her volunteers and is especially proud of one simple comment she received from an admission officer who responded to one of the college fair surveys.

"It was such a wonderful compliment," Klug said. "It read, 'This is the best fair in the West … actually anywhere.'"