TIVERTON — By far the biggest and most attended College Fair in the East Bay area this year will take place in the Tiverton High School (THS) gymnasium on Thursday, Oct. 24 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
It couldn’t happen at a more opportune time, as college planning takes over many high school students’ (and their parents’) lives for the next six or seven months.
This is the 14th year THS has hosted what has become known as the Newport County College Fair.
Tiverton High School Principal Steven Fezette said the fair “is beyond a community opportunity. It’s good for our kids and it’s kind of a global opportunity that’s offered out there for many others.”
Representatives from at least 106 colleges and universities along the East Coast, in New England and elsewhere have already committed to attend. THS Guidance Counselor Cathy Winston, who coordinates the event, says, “probably another 20” will decide to attend at the last minute.
“We have schools (four year and two year colleges, and trade schools) from all over the country, and some international colleges” who attend, she says.
Area participation by regional public and private high schools is also extensive. Invitations have been sent to 78 such schools, she says, and in the past, parents, students, guidance counselors and others from all the East Bay high schools have attended.
Ms. Winston says no other high schools in the East Bay, to her knowledge, have college fairs, and this is the only one of this size that she is aware of, that encourages the attendance of parents, a great many colleges, and is held in the evening to enhance participation.
Other schools have conducted much smaller ones, reportedly including Mt. Hope High School in Bristol recently.
The event is co-sponsored by the College Planning Center of Rhode Island. The Planning Center specializes in financial aid counseling, and will have a table and counselors present the evening of the fair.
Ms. Winston said, “about 1,000 families go through here the night of the fair.” The parking lots are packed, she said.
What makes the THS fair special, Ms. Winston said, is that, “the kids get more personal attention here and don’t have to stand in line as they do at larger national fairs — we make it user friendly. And we encourage parents to attend.”
Fair staff and volunteers greet arriving students and their families with packets of information they can use at the fair.
The high school gymnasium is filled with 60 tables, usually two colleges to a table, all set up alphabetically, she said.
Students will be able to gather literature from participating colleges, and will be asked by most colleges to fill out cards so that additional information can be mailed to them.
Tip from the THS guidance department: students planning to attend should prepare labels with their name, address, year of graduation, name of high school, intended major, phone number, and e-mail address, that they can affix to request cards available at all the college tables. This will save time so the student can ask the representatives more questions, instead of filling out forms.
Tip from the THS guidance department: college representatives staffing their college’s table at the fair are usually the same admissions counselors who are assigned to visit high schools in this geographical area, and will be the same counselors who conduct the initial review of applications from students in this area.
For the college representatives, the evening begins with a sit-down dinner at 4 p.m. for all who attend.
“They remember this event and come back,” says Ms.
Winston. The college representatives spend weeks on the road and welcome a chance to visit informally with their peers and high school guidance counselors from nearby high schools (a number have been invited), and get a good meal in the bargain, she said.
Money and food have been contributed by a large number of community sponsors (who include several local markets and a dozen local restaurants and coffee shops).
About 25 parent and faculty volunteers have also helped organize the event and will be the ones in the kitchen preparing the dinner before the fair.
“It’s a huge unbelievable buffet sit-down dinner,” said Ms. Winston.
A raffle for college representatives is included in the events.
Funding comes primarily from contributions and a $30 charge for colleges that attend. No tax payer funds are involved, she said.
Expenses include outlays for rental tables and chairs, and a police and fire department detail.
The event has garnered wide support. An Amherst College representative wrote to THS guidance a few years back, saying that “it was a pleasure meeting and chatting with so many of your students”
A University of Massachusetts representative wrote that she planned to attend again. “Certainly,” she said, “wild horses couldn’t keep me away.”
The Tiverton Economic Development Commission, chaired by Scott Humphrey, passed a resolution recently, declaring that, “education and job training are two key elements of economic development and the quality of life in Tiverton,” and said it “strongly expresses its support ” of the college fair.
Part of the proceeds raised from the fair are used to underwrite three scholarships of $1,000 each — called “Guidance Scholarships” — that the THS Guidance Department awards to graduating seniors each year.
For students heading directly into careers, into the trades, or for other training, another event being called a Career Fair, is now in the early planning stage, and will take place sometime in February.
Tiverton High School is located at 100 North Brayton Road in Tiverton. Telephone: 401-624-8494.