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Education

Virtual College Fair Becomes The New Norm For Missouri's Seniors

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Dozens of high schools canceled in-person college fairs to prevent spreading the coronavirus through large crowds. Now, juniors and seniors will have to meet college representatives on Zoom.

Typically the fall is a busy time for college fairs, but not this year.

Dozens of high schools canceled in-person college fairs this semester to prevent spreading the coronavirus. In response, the Missouri Association for College Admission Counseling is hosting a virtual fair.

The free online college fair starts Sept. 13 and lasts through October. More than 100 colleges are participating. Students can also meet recruiters from the military, cosmology and veterinarian schools.

“[Fairs] help students to be able to have that relationship [with a school] and then to start advocating for themselves,” said Michelle Luraschi, co-chair of the college fair committee for the association.

The association organizes the state’s regional college fairs, and can attract around 5,000 students in the fall, but every one was canceled.

Nationwide, a majority of Associations for College Admission Counseling have also switched to online fairs.

Switching from in-person college fairs to online has attracted out-of-state universities, such as Penn State and the University of Colorado, which normally would not send a representative to St Louis.

“Colleges have a finite budget and so they travel to where the numbers are, to where they get students,” said Luraschi, who is also a college and career preparation coordinator at Pattonville High School. “And so we think it's especially exciting for our more smaller and our more rural districts who don't have these opportunities.”

The fair will be less interactive than an in-person fair, but counselors say it will expose seniors to college representatives in a time where campus visits are restricted.

Senior Alex Bullard from Pattonville High School is still deciding where to attend college. She said fairs are crucial because they give her a first impression of a school.

“If I don't get a good vibe from the representative at the school, then I'm not really interested in it anymore,” she said.

Bullard said online sessions with colleges and online tours of schools make it more difficult to take in each campus' atmosphere. So, she's hoping to visit her top choices in person this spring.

College recruiters agree that in-person connections is ideal.

“You can kind of get a feeling of what the school is like, but that's hard to do through a screen, especially if it's kind of a one way, live conversation,” said Andrew Laue, associate director of Admissions at Webster University.

Around 2,000 students are expected to sign up.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

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