Valley College Planning Seminar and Fair Answers Students’ Questions
Valley High School (VHS) is hosting a college planning seminar and college fair for Central Iowa on March 2. The seminar will start at 5 p.m. in the Media Center, and the fair will start at 6 p.m. in the VHS cafeteria and commons area.
VHS counselors Karla Hardy and Eric Traynor plan the event each year with the help of Polly Maly, VHS Counseling Center secretary. Hardy and Maly organize the fair, while Traynor works with the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) to plan the seminar. ICAN is a non-profit organization that aims to help students and parents successfully navigate the college journey.
“We send people to their site all the time,” Traynor said. “They’re a great resource.”
ICAN approached VHS about presenting a college planning seminar a few years ago. Seeing the success of the college fairs at the school, ICAN decided they wanted to be part of the event as well. ICAN now works with Traynor to plan and present relevant, useful seminars each year.
The seminar will be presented by Erick Danielson, ICAN supervisor, with support from some of the college fair admission representatives. Danielson will present the main information, and the representatives will provide specific examples of how the schools they are representing tackle things like campus visits or admission standards. To present as much diversity as possible, they plan to include three representatives in the presentation: one from a state school, one from an out-of-state public school, and one from a private school. The seminar will cover a wide variety of topics, including:
- the application process
- key things students should think about when comparing schools
- campus visits
- admission standards
- financial aid and other resources
The financial aid portion will only cover the basics, as ICAN presents a seminar specifically on financial aid at VHS each December. The college planning seminar will also provide time for students and their families to ask any questions and receive input from all the presenters.
The college fair will follow the seminar. Representatives from several regional colleges will attend. A tentative list of attending schools is available but subject to change. Interested schools must be registered through the Iowa Association for College Admission Counseling.
While the seminar gives an overview of the college selection process, the fair is a good time for students and their families to find out specific information from schools and either start or continue researching schools.
“It’s a really nice way to start the process,” Hardy said. “It’s asking questions and getting used to comparing schools. Anyone who comes will get something from it.”
Attending colleges will have information to hand out and representatives available to answer questions. Traynor explained that the representatives attend fairs “all over the state” and are experienced at answering all types of questions about the schools they represent. Hardy, Maly, and Traynor agreed that the questions students and their families have are the most important things they can bring to the fair and seminar. Hardy provided a list of good questions to ask representatives, such as:
- What are the admission criteria?
- What majors are offered?
- What type of student activities are available?
- What is the average class size?
The questions and others are available from the VHS Counseling Center, along with other college planning documents. They will also be available at the fair.
Any students and families who want to attend the seminar and fair are welcome.
“It’s not open just to juniors and seniors,” Maly said. “Certainly freshmen and sophomores can come if they want to start getting an idea of which schools they want to look at.”
Hardy and Traynor added that even students who have not started at VHS can attend. Students are encouraged to sign up at gotocollegefairs.com beforehand. To streamline the fair process and allow more time for discussion, students will submit their information to the website, which will generate a barcode they can print out or access on a smartphone or tablet. The school representatives will then scan that barcode, allowing them to acquire the students’ information without the students having to spend all night filling out forms. If a student does not register prior to the event, they are still welcome to attend and register at the beginning of the event.