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School plans first college fair in 15 years

For years, if Farmington High School students wanted to go to a college fair, they had to travel to Minneapolis or Inver Hills Community College. This year, though, all they have to do is stay after school.

Sixteen to 20 colleges will have representatives at the April 29 College Fair at FHS. It's not the first one the school has ever had, but it's the first of its kind in 15 years.

FHS Career Center counselor Amy Olson has been working on this project for a couple of months. Contacting schools, coordinating schedules and getting the word out about it has been no small undertaking.

This year's college fair is a little on the small side. There will be representatives present from two-year colleges, four-year public colleges, four-year private colleges and technical colleges. Another event that will feature the branches of the military is being planned for May.

But really, there's plenty to think about when it comes to choosing colleges. Is there on-campus housing? What about a food service program? What kinds of activities are offered? Are there campus jobs available? How big are the classes?

Olson has a whole list of questions to ask college representatives drawn up for parents and students. Every one of the participating schools will have admissions representatives at FHS to answer those questions.

"Most admissions reps are very eager to get out and meet students and their families," said FHS counselor Diane Bulygo.

Scheduling for the college fair was no accident. It was set for 3-5 p.m., to coincide with parent/teacher conferences, and to hopefully attract some of the students who are staying after school.

The fair is not just open to high school seniors. This far into the school year, many seniors have already applied and been accepted to the schools they want to attend next year. This is an opportunity for the younger high school students - even middle school students - to check out some of these schools and start thinking about what happens after graduation.

"We should have something for everyone here," Olson said. "We're really encouraging the middle school parents to come out and have a look around, too. The more the better."

Graduation and what follows may seem a long way off for students in the middle schools, but things like financial planning and deciding what field to study are things families can start considering now. The college reps coming will have plenty of information available to help families start thinking those thoughts and making those plans.

"We should be able to provide them with a lot of the resources they need to get a lot out of here," Olson said. "We're trying to get them to start thinking long-term and prepare students before they get to high school."

Since there are many more schools out there than will be at the college fair, students are welcome to stop in at the school's new career center. If there is a school a student would like to visit, or to meet with a representative, Olson can make the contacts necessary to get an admission rep to FHS. Plus, there are admissions representatives who stop by the building on a regular basis.

But it's okay that this fair is small, Olson said. That's part of the plan.

"We wanted to start small, and if we get a good response, we'll add more in the future. We're starting it small, and we'll go from there."

Bulygo planned the last College Fair back in 1995. It was a big project back then, and it was difficult to juggle the event's planning with the day-to-day routines that go with being a school counselor. Since Olson's primary role is to run the new career center at FHS, it's a little easier for her to find the time to schedule a college fair.

"This is quite an undertaking," Bulygo said. "Being able to do this, it's huge for us. We're just so excited.

"I kind of feel like we're in the big leagues now."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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