SCHENECTADY — High school juniors and seniors were thinking about big decisions on Thursday.
“I’ve been thinking about college for a while, but I’m not sure what I want to do,” said senior Nyzairia Ussery. “It’s a big decision, what you want to do for the rest of your life.”
Nyzairia and hundreds of her schoolmates had a chance to meet with recruiters from more than 100 colleges and universities at the school’s fall college fair. She said she is interested in veterinarian science but also business, and she was impressed by the University at Albany and SUNY Delhi.
Some of the students were overtaken by the selection, walking around the school’s cafeteria with a handful of recruitment material from schools like Clarkson, Hofstra, Iona, Syracuse and nearly two dozen SUNY campuses. Military recruiters were on hand too.
But other students knew exactly what school they wanted to make an impression on.
“You feel a lot of pressure, you have to sell yourself,” said senior Hannah Kirkham, who has her eyes set on UAlbany. “I made sure to ask a lot of questions, and I got their card.”
As the college fair started to wrap up to make room for lunch, Kirkham sat at a table with two other seniors, informational material from dozens of schools sprawled out in front of them. Alana Bianchi, browsing through a Syracuse University pamphlet, said she noticed at least one school that wasn't present.
“NYU is one of my top picks; they weren’t here so I was a little disappointed,” Bianchi said. But she was able to connect with some of her other top choices. “I’m also applying to Union and UAlbany.”
While the high school had hosted small college fairs, mostly consisting of local schools, last year it started running a pair of larger events, hoping to attract as many schools as possible. Organized through the Capital Area School Development Association, Schenectady High hosts the fall fair for juniors and seniors as well as a larger fair in the spring that is open to families and students from other area districts.
“With our motto being college and career readiness, any exposure to colleges helps the kids move forward,” said guidance counselor Chelsea Houghton, who helped organize the event.
The school’s guidance counselors are starting to conduct senior interviews, checking in with students about their plans for after graduation and setting them up to get college and scholarship applications turned in on time, she said.
The fair is a way to spark student interests and to get them thinking seriously about the time crunch for getting applications into schools. Counselors also visit English classes across the school to make presentations about applications and college essays.
“Pretty much every course introduces them to the college process, every conversation is about that ultimate goal of graduating and what they want to do next,” Houghton said.
Schenectady welcomed about 20 more colleges than last year to Thursday's event. Dozens of recruiters chatted up students, passed out material and answered questions ranging from “How’s the business program” to “How are the sports teams?”
“Our goal is to give them an understanding of what we are all about, hopefully if it’s not UAlbany it will be some other college,” said Marcia Hoyte, a UAlbany representative.
Shaswar Mohammed, a junior, said he had been thinking about college for a long time but was just starting to get serious about finding the right school. He was most impressed by his visit with Iona College, a school 20 miles north of Manhattan; he particularly liked the school’s program flexibility.
“It has a lot of options and it doesn’t make you stick with one,” said Shaswar, who said he was interested in studying medicine.
He said he was looking for a school that would get him away from home so he can focus better. And he opened one of the pamphlets and pointed to a statistic the college chose to emphasize in big, bold lettering: 99 percent of students receive financial aid.
“This is really important,” Shaswar said.