Saturday’s HBCU Experience brings colleges to students

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Choosing a college can be a life-changing experience.

However, that experience can be a daunting challenge for prospective first-generation students whose families may be unfamiliar with college. Additionally, some families face financial or other limitations that prevent them from having their student visit an actual college campus.

Short of making an on-campus visit, college fairs where exhibitors bring the college experience to students often prove the next best option. That’s the idea behind the HBCU Experience set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 21, at Skyline High School, 7777 Forney Road. The fair will connect students in elementary, middle and high school with admissions officers, alumni, students, and representatives of fraternities and sororities from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU).

To expand students’ exposure to college life, more mainstream schools will also participate. The event is the schools’ opportunity to show and tell potential students what academic and social life is like on their campuses.

Counseling Services Executive Director Dr. Sylvia Lopez, one of the event planners, said the fair will give parents the opportunity to visit with college representatives and get answers to their questions about college life.

“It can be hard for first generation parents to understand the importance of visiting or asking questions about schools as this is unfamiliar territory to them,” she said.

To ensure students get the needed exposure, Lopez said school counselors often give students virtual campus tours via computer and sometimes organize college visits for groups of students. And, of course, college fairs also help students and families learn more about the college process.

“Hopefully, college fairs like the HBCU Experience help parents and students feel comfortable enough to ask questions,” Lopez said.

At the very least, Lopez said such events make families aware of the many different college and university choices available to them.

“It’s important to keep the idea of going to college and the opportunities available to pay for it up front and personal (in the minds of students),” she said.

Some of the HBCUs expected to participate include Philander Smith, Paul Quinn, Morehouse, and Jarvis Christian colleges, and Prairie View A&M, Clark Atlanta, Jackson State, Tuskegee, and Dillard universities. Other colleges that have committed include the University of Texas at Dallas, Texas Christian University, and the University of North Texas.

Students in grades 5 through 12 and their parents are invited to the event, which will offer workshops, entertainment, and literature galore.

Families who want to do some advance preparation to get the most from the experience can check out this advice from Bloomberg Business, Getting the Most Out of College Fairs.

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