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Students get early glimpse of college

October 17, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - While scores of students browsed booths promoting opportunities to travel, dream and explore, one recruiter at a college fair Monday observed the most important factor in charting the course after high school could be closer to home.

Dear old mom.

"Listen to mom is my best advice. Moms always know best," said Bill Heffelfinger, an admissions counselor for Old Dominion University in Virginia.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 students and their families were expected to attend a college fair at Hagerstown Community College, which hosted the event for the first time, said Jennifer A. Fisher, director of admissions, records and registration at HCC.

More than 80 recruiters, including representatives from the military and two-year and four-year schools, turned out, Fisher said.

Fall usually marks the start of students' serious planning; the next step usually involves visiting schools, Fisher said.

At a table advertising the U.S. Army, 14-year-old Shelby Gray mulled her options while wearing fluffy blue and pink tie-dye slippers. Still just a sophomore, Shelby, who attends South Hagerstown High School, said she wants to get a jump on making post-graduation plans.

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Shelby said she is considering becoming a military nurse.

"I don't really know. If I'm a nurse at all, I want to be a nurse in the Army, but I also want to go into the Coast Guard," Shelby said.

According to Jack Gest, a counselor at North Hagerstown High School, students should not put off planning for the future. On Wednesday, the juniors Gest advises will take their Preliminary SATs, he said. Good test scores could make students eligible for scholarships, but Gest said even younger students need to take their grades seriously.

"I tell kids it starts in their ninth-grade year because that's when they start building their rsum and getting good grades. If you get bad grades, that closes doors in the future," Gest said.

Williamsport High School senior Allison Everly, 17, said she is looking for a school "a couple hours" from home.

"I'm looking for a bigger school; it's just like more variety," she said.

"Better concerts," quipped Allison's father, Brad Everly.

"She's afraid mom is going to come and pop in," explained Cindy Everly, Allison's mother.

Brooke Turner, an admissions counselor for Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, said the school of about 1,500 undergraduate and master's students is looking for students who are involved and serious about learning. Students who are trying to narrow their choices should visit the schools they are considering, Turner advised.

"Until they sit in on a class or see themselves there, I think that's definitely a big thing," Turner said.

For Heffelfinger, who pulled out of New York University just three weeks before orientation, one person's advice finally resonated. He said he ended up at Elmira College when his mother finally convinced him he was better suited for a small-school experience.

Students should ask about colleges' average class sizes and the ratio of professors to students, Heffelfinger said.

"I think part of the problem is they don't necessarily know what they're looking for," Heffelfinger said.

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