Colorado high schoolers meet with colleges at annual fair
At the start of the weekend, Aspen High School seniors Hailey Higdon and Avery Hirsch were pretty set on what universities they wanted to attend next fall.
But after Sunday’s Colorado Western Slope College Fair held on the Aspen School District campus, the 17-year-olds weren’t as sure.
“I thought I knew where I wanted to go but now I don’t because I found out about a lot of new colleges,” Hirsch said.
In the parking lot adjacent to Aspen Middle School, Hirsch, Higdon and a group of other Aspen High School seniors talked about their experiences attending the annual college fair over the years.
Each fall, the four-hour fair aims to introduce high school students across the western slope to a variety of post-secondary education options in hopes the teens will find the place that’s the best fit for them.
“The college fair definitely makes the search less intimidating,” Higdon said. Many of her friends voiced agreement.
“It puts the college world into perspective and helps you get to know the human aspect by talking with the (admissions officers),” Hirsch added.
Beneath two large, white tents, roughly 250 tables covered in colorful brochures, pens and stickers were lined in long rows and manned by enthusiastic admissions officers.
Hundreds of students and their families squeezed up and down each row to speak with the officers, and visited each of the three district school buildings to attend workshops on a variety of topics from financial aid and test preparation, to military colleges and study abroad opportunities.
At 12:30 p.m., about two-dozen students and their families gathered in the Aspen Middle School for a new workshop to the college fair this year, titled “Practical Pathways to the Degree You Want.”
The panel-style workshop featured admissions officers from Colorado Mountain College, Aims Community College and Colorado State University-Pueblo, and focused on how concurrent enrollment and career or technical education programs may help create a more cost-effective, direct way for high school students to pursue the adult future they envision.
As explained by Lisa Runck, associate dean of student affairs for Colorado Mountain College, there has been a recent push for concurrent enrollment, or college courses offered in high school for college credit, in the state of Colorado.
“Dual-enrollment is a wonderful way to get a jump start on your general education courses while you’re still in high school,” Runck said.
Most concurrent enrollment courses transfer over to four-year public universities and help students start college ahead academically and financially, as most high schools foot the dual-course tuition bills.
Runck also talked about the advantages of associates of applied science and certificate programs, like those in nursing and information technology, for some students.
“These programs typically take two to three years to complete and are designed to narrow a student’s focus in a specialized career field,” Runck said. “They help you get to employment faster.”
After talking through the pros and cons of these vocational programs, Runck and the other admissions counselors offered students and families a few pieces of general advice.
The counselors acknowledged that deciding on what you want to do after high school isn’t always easy, and encouraged seniors to really think about what they enjoy doing and what their values are before making their post-secondary education decisions.
“Think about your day-to-day activities. What do you like to read or to binge watch?” Runck asked the group. “It’s really difficult to make some of these decisions when you’re 17 and 18 …It’s OK to not know your direction and if you need a little time to figure it out, take that time.”
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