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KISD hosts college fair for students

October 6, 2018

Katelyn Young has visited more than 20 college campuses since the 17-year-old senior began planning for life after she graduates from Cinco Ranch High School.

“None of them in Texas,” her mom, Jane Young, added Wednesday during the Katy Independent School District’s “College and Career Night” at the Leonard E. Merrell Center, 6301 S. Stadium Lane.

It’s not that Katelyn has anything against Texas universities like Texas A&M or Rice, but she wants to expand her horizons once she gets that high school diploma in her hand.

“I’m the oddball of my friends,” she said. “It’s a personal preference.”

They were among the hundreds of excited high school juniors and seniors - often along with their parents - who made their way along dozens of tables at the Merrell Center adorned with university logos and covered in pamphlets, tote bags and other swag. The colleges that signed up ranged from Houston-area standbys like Sam Houston State University to Harvard University. For students not interested in a university education, welding schools, cosmetology colleges and culinary institutes also were represented.

On something of a lark, Katelyn stopped at the table for Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She had heard of the place but didn’t really have knowledge about what they were and what they offered for a young woman with interests both in theater and mathematics. Their representative said faculty members - rather than teaching assistants in graduate school - taught all the classes. To her, that was a big plus for Drake University.

“I ended up really liking what they had to say,” she said. “He said the students were really engaged - wanting to learn and wanting to grow.”

Some of the high school students seemed glassy-eyed at the sheer number of colleges vying for their attention.

“It’s stressful. It’s overwhelming,” said Allison Gill, 17, a junior at Seven Lakes High School.

She was interested in dermatology and was in line to hear what the University of Oklahoma had to offer. But her mother, Janette Gill, said she isn’t quite sure what she wants to do in college.

“I think it’s the case for the majority of kids in here,” Janette Gill said. “It’s great exposure for the schools and for the kids to see all the options that are available in one place.”

While places like the University of Texas were well-known to KISD high schoolers, Christy Wizior was at the Merrell Center to tell people about Hofstra University in New York. She said more and more Texas students are becoming more familiar with the school. She said their non-Long Island student population is increasing as more students from outside the region have become familiar with Hofstra.

“There are a lot more transplants coming to Texas. A lot of the families I talk to grew up in the northeast so they’re familiar with Hofstra,” Wizior said. “Some of the students were born up there and they’re looking to go back to the area.”

Wizior said the students at the KISD college fair wanted to know if Hofstra offered their intended major, admission requirements and scholarship opportunities.

“Obviously, cost is a big thing on their minds,” she said.

Some students were surprised that a university on the outskirts of New York City also is 10 minutes from the beach.

“That one always throws them off,” Wizior said. “We’re 10 minutes from Jones Beach and Long Beach is like 25 minutes away.”

Jane Young said attending college fairs is a good way to become familiar with a broad selection of universities. But, that doesn’t replace actually visiting the campus - the best way to get a “warm and fuzzy” feeling about the place, she said.

“Is this a place she can see herself for the next four years,” she said. “It’s more of a level of comfort that it’s a good decision and a good investment - and it is an investment.”

Brenda Chavez said she’s not “selling” DePaul University in Chicago to the students who approach her table.

“I usually ask them questions about what they’re interested in. Then, I kind of talk about some other things I think they might be interested in,” Chavez said. “We’re very fortunate - we have many more applications than we can handle.”

She said the stop at Katy ISD was the latest in her five-week visit to Texas. “I haven’t been home in a month,” Chavez said. “I honestly have no idea what the weather is like.”

The ground level of the Merrell Center was covered with tables but the university representatives at this year’s college fair also took over the second floor and snaked into the Education Support Complex.

This was the first college fair for Hannah Ho, who represented the University of Houston’s honors college. When they arrived at the Merrell Center, Ho said she told her partner he had packed too many brochures about their college.

“I packed extra materials just because I knew we were going to Katy,” said Brandon Crowley, her fellow University of Houston representative. “Katy is so large and now we’re out.”

Both said UH’s Honors College program offered the best of all worlds to Katy-area students.

“It’s a small school within a big school,” Ho said. “It’s a place you can absolutely be comfortable at.”

mike.glenn@chron.com

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