By Curt Yeomans
Juniors and seniors at Mt. Zion High School got a chance to explore where they might go after high school, during a college fair on Thursday.
Hosted by the school and held in Mt. Zion's library, the fair included representatives from 12 colleges and universities, ranging from Clayton State University to Grambling State University (in Louisiana). Also participating was a recruiter from the U.S. Marine Corps.
"The whole point was to provide our students with an opportunity to meet some college recruiters, and to find out what it will take to get into college," said Jeannine Reynolds, the school's community relations liaison, and college fair coordinator.
Other schools participating were: Atlanta Metropolitan College; Clark-Atlanta University; Emmanuel College (in Franklin Springs, Ga.); Georgia Gwinnett College (in Lawrenceville); Georgia State University; Gordon College (in Barnesville); the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD); Savannah State University, and Southern Catholic College (in Dawsonville).
"My whole goal was to reach out to a wide variety of colleges," Reynolds said. "Most of our students go to the Valdosta State's, the Albany State's, the Fort Valley State's, and the West Georgia's, so I wanted to give them other options to consider. We also have a very diverse student population, so I wanted these kids to have a diverse range of schools to look at."
Recruiters at the fair said they look at varying criteria for potential students, but all said academics play a central role in admission decisions. Georgia State Admissions Counselor Genevieve Potrekus said academics carry heavier weight among schools like hers, that receive thousands of applications every year. Fifty percent of people who apply to attend Georgia State are accepted, she said.
"Like UGA and Georgia Tech, we're one of the larger schools in the state," she said. "We received 13,000 applications last year, so we don't do interviews, or require essays or interviews, and we don't get to look that closely at extracurricular activities. That means their [prospective students] academics are really important ...
"The average GPA [grade-point average] you will see among the students we admit is a 3.3, and if you want to be a little more competitive, you will need a 3.5 GPA," she added. "We require a 3.7 GPA, or higher, for scholarships."
But, the activities a prospective student engages in during high school also make an impact on college admissions counselors. Southern Catholic College Admissions Counselor Karla Rodriguez said that while her school also strongly considers a student's academics, counselors look for students who can contribute to the growth of the school, which is now in its 5th year of existence.
"We look for leaders, who are going to come and build the school," Rodriguez said. "Whether a student is a leader depends on what activities he, or she, has been involved in outside of school. That tells us a lot about the student's leadership skills. We look at a student's extracurricular activities, or whether they take an interest in a cause, such as muscular dystrophy, or breast cancer awareness. We want to see if they go out of their way to help other people."
Clayton State Admissions Counselor Joseph Echols said academics is the first, and the primary, admissions factor, but extracurricular activities can be the area that gives students an edge in the admissions pool. "If it comes down to two students, we'll look at their extracurricular activities, and say 'Were they involved in school?' Because it helps us put a face with the applicant," he said.
Another recommendation offered prospective college students was to start their college search early. "I would say at the end of their sophomore year, they should begin looking at colleges," Echols said. "By the time they are seniors, they should have their list narrowed down to 3-5 schools, made their college campus visits, and be getting ready to send in their admissions applications."
Potrekus said students should reach out to admissions counselors from the school they want to attend, and get to know them. "Knowing your admissions counselor can help you out a lot," she said. "If a student contacts me, and makes an effort to get to know me, I can find out about any of that extra stuff, such as the extracurricular activities, and how much he or she wants to attend this school. I will push those kids up, and make a case for us to admit them."
Several at the college fair said they were happy to have the opportunity to talk to college recruiters. "I think it's a real boost for people who haven't made their mind up yet, about where they want to go to college, because it gives them many options to look at," said Mt. Zion senior, Lakuan Davis, 17. "I'm leaning toward SCAD, because I love art."
Junior Christian Davis, 16, said, "I like how they had the Catholic one, I thought that was interesting, because at this school, we have a diverse population and there should be something for everyone."