On Wednesday, October 19, guidance counselor Jennifer Psaradelis, assistant principal John Lucchini, art teacher Kate Merlini, and administrative assistant Stacy Fusaro, took 80 students to the Barnstable High School Field House to attend the 52nd annual All Cape College Day Fair. This fair, specifically designed for schools in the Cape and Islands area of Massachusetts, was an opportunity for high school juniors and seniors in the area to start thinking about college options, and talk to admissions representatives and alumni of various colleges. Psaradelis shares her opinion of it, saying, “I think the college fair is beneficial for students because any opportunity that our students have, especially on Nantucket where we’re a little isolated, to get their face and name in front of an admissions counselor is an amazing opportunity.”
Psaradelis finds that this makes the college process more available to students, especially for students who do not have the opportunity to travel and visit colleges. Even students who do travel find this helpful because it gives them a chance to remind the admissions officer of their interest, and open their eyes to colleges they might not have considered without the access to a wide variety of options. There are many other fairs in other regions of the country, but this is the closest one. Students also have the chance to stand out to the admissions officer. Since applications look very similar, students have the opportunity to match a face with their application, so they will stand out once the time comes to determine their admittance. Psaradelis hopes students will use this opportunity to “ask important questions so they can make informed decisions about which school is the best fit for them.”
Located in a gymnasium, 175 colleges were set up in alphabetical rows, each with a banner draped over their part of the table, as well as a pole holding up a paper with the name of the college attached. Despite the large number of universities present, the setup made navigation surprisingly easy. The most common complaint was that some of the rows were too close together, making it difficult to walk around other students, and even some of their parents. Along the back wall were military services grouped together, as well as a few more colleges. The colleges ranged from business schools, to law schools, liberal arts schools, and state schools.
Nantucket High School students travelled on the Hy-Line, and took two school buses split up alphabetically, spending a half hour at the Cape Cod Mall, before attending the college fair from 3:30-4:45, which reportedly allowed for a perfect amount of time to meet representatives of each student's’ top choice school. The fair went on until 5:30, but Nantucket students left early, enabling them to grab dinner and shop at the mall. The students returned to Nantucket on the seven o’clock Hy-Line and arrived on Nantucket at 8pm. Psaradelis spoke to the judgement to leave early, that was made by the chaperones: “ we have been doing this many years and we find that kids don’t need much more time than what we offer. We try to have kids be prepared and have kids pick the colleges that they’re going to seek out, maybe colleges that they haven’t heard of before or they didn’t think of but usually the time that we provide is enough time.” While the majority of students were fine leaving early due to fatigue, some did complain of feeling rushed.
Overall, the experience had its positives and negatives. The opportunity was pleasant, being located on a half-day so as not to miss school work. Students travelled with their friends, and the trip provided them with a chance to go shopping as well as enjoy the rare opportunity that Nantucketers have to gobble down fast food. As for the college fair, the representatives were overall informed on the generic information, handing out brochures and pamphlets about the school, as well as giving students the option to sign up for receiving news from colleges by way of email or phone number. Junior Karen Murtagh stated that, “it was a fun time and I enjoyed going off island to learn about colleges. I definitely thought it was worth the time.”
However, the experience did have its downsides. Many students complained of feeling rushed to ask more detailed questions to the representatives, and there was an overall feeling of fatigue after walking through a boiling hot gymnasium. Junior Emily Kitsock commented saying, “It was ok. It was really hard because there was so many people.”
Even the representatives of the colleges proved to be tired and hot near the end of the fair, making it difficult to feel enthusiastic towards a school when the person “winning over” the students isn’t even enthusiastic.
Junior Mei Marks made the point that, “everyone is trying to ‘sell’ their schools, and they end up sounding alike.” Furthermore, if a student had a specific question about an aspect of the school such as different music classes or the photography opportunities, the answer was not always available, as some of the representatives were not prepared for such questions, especially when that representative was alumni simply “filling in” for the admissions officer who could not attend.
Although there were negative aspects to the trip, students reported to feeling prepared for the college application process after attending the Fair. By taking the time to research colleges and what they were looking for in their school, they felt more encouraged to work harder in school, and less fearful about their futures. The guidance counselors also welcome feedback on the experience to make the college fair as helpful as possible in the coming years.