Editorial note: An institution’s purpose for attending a college
fair is to attract high school students to their campuses. Black Issues
thought it would be interesting to hear from a student who attended.
The following is his report.
WASHINGTON – I am a high school junior now, so I guess its time to
get serious about my immediate future – namely college. Where do I want
to spend the first four years of my young adult life? Of course I want
to go to a college that fulfills my academic and social needs, but
there are so many of them out there.
The Washington, D.C., National College Fair, which was sponsored by
the National Association for College Admission Counseling, offered what
I thought would be the perfect place to begin my search for my perfect
school. According to the association approximately 5,000 other students
visited with representatives from 165 schools during the two-day fair
earlier this month.
My present thoughts about a future career involve engineering.
Before I went to the fair. I did some research and discovered that the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the California Institute
of Technology, and Stanford are considered three of the top engineering
schools in the country. While I was hoping to get some additional
information from these schools – which did not attend the fair, much to
my disappointment – I was still eager to question some of the other
I arrived at the fair with my dad and we were greeted with a bag
full of helpful information, including a book of college facts and a
pamphlet of college shopping tips. An announcement that a financial aid
workshop was about to begin caught our ear. My dad, being the thrifty
man that he is, suggested that we attend.
For us, this turned out to be a waste of time. After watching my
parents deal with the financial-aid process with my older sister for
four years, I already knew what the seminar leader was telling us about
keeping grades up, filing applications on time, who is responsible for
paying for my education, the types of financial aid available, and
things like that.
After the workshop, I made my way. to the Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute table. There, a friendly person with concise answers gave me
a lot of information on RPI’s research programs, equipment, and
facilities – and even told me about students who were published in
academic journals before they graduated college.
I left the table with a good feeling about RPI that had not
previously been there. I took a handful of brochures and added the
college to my list of possible schools.
My next table stop was Michigan Technological University, a school I
had not heard of before attending the fair. The admissions officer gave
me tuition, student body, campus, curriculum, and research information.
Then he inquired about my present high school math and science courses
and my grade-point average. After hearing that I was taking Algebra 3
and Physics with an “A” average in both classes, he told me that I was
ahead of the bunch.
I left the table feeling good about myself and Michigan Tech, even
though I do not necessarily want to attend college there. The
admissions officer gave me a good impression of his school by simply
acting as if he was sincerely interested in me. But this “happy time”
came to an abrupt end when I visited the table of the only Ivy League
The representative was busy talking with others when I arrived at
the table, so I picked up a pamphlet and began reading. When he was
finished, I asked him about his engineering research program. Besides
telling me that it existed and was good, he provided me with basically
the same information I had read in the pamphlet. I tried to probe for a
deeper, more satisfying answer, but all I received in return was cold,
basic statistics. I left the table disappointed and uninformed.
The National College Fair was not what I expected. Although I did
have a couple good experiences, overall I was disappointed. Not only
did I not get any information on my top college choices, the
uninterested and stolid treatment I received from the only Ivy League
school in attendance was frustrating.
I was so frustrated, in fact, that I found my dad – who was checking
out the New York Institute of Technology and the Rochester Institute of
Technology for me – and asked him to drop me off at the Martin Luther
King Jr. Library. I needed to do some more research for a report on
Native American mound builders due at school.
Terry J. Lee-St. John is a sixteen-year-old high school junior of
African American and Asian American ancestry who attends the Sidwell
Friends School in Washington, D.C. He is the son of Black Issues Copy
Editor Eric St. John.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates
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Division Director, Division of Graduate Education
National Science Foundation
Dean of the College of Social Work
The University of Tennessee Knoxville
Dean of the Tickle College of Engineering
The University of Tennessee Knoxville