Juniors experience college life

High school juniors traveled from as near as the Bremerton High School campus across the street and as far as tiny Quilcene to get a sneak peek at area colleges Tuesday in a seminar at Olympic College.

OC hosted the 2006 Washington Council Spring High School Tour, letting 11th-graders who are only a little more than a year away from leaving secondary education behind have an opportunity to experience a variety of options for their future on the campus of the primary higher education choice for Kitsap and parts of the Olympic peninsulas.

“We just want to have (students) experience the campus,” said Susan Tollefson, manager of Running Start and high school outreach at OC. “They don’t have to travel all over the state to visit a lot of colleges. They’re right here.”

For King’s West School academic counselor Emil Heinze, the event was a supplement to the Junior Jump Start program the school’s juniors participate in at Seattle Pacific University each year. Heinze said students are often impressed enough by SPU’s presentation that a solid contingent from each graduating class at the school usually makes their way to that university as college freshmen.

“They spread out all over the place,” he said of the students’ varying interests. “It’s because we have such a variety of ... cultures at our school. Some want to go a Christian school. Many of our international students come to (America) to go to a name school ... like Purdue or Boston College. More and more are looking at Eastern (Washington University) because it’s easier to get in and tuition is much more affordable, something that is more of a concern these days.”

Among 20 Washington colleges represented at the tour, the largest schools such as UW, WSU and Western drew the accompanying larger number of interested students.

For those looking for the out-of-state experience, Joseph Davidson, a regional admissions counselor for WSU, pointed out that opportunity is available to sophomores and juniors at the school through a national exchange program.

After hitting the highlights of an education in the Palouse, Davidson hoped students left willing to expand their horizons and head away from home for college.

“I hope they get a feel of what it’s like. A lot of students haven’t ever been to Eastern Washington,” he said. “I hope they take away from this that WSU is an experience. It’s important they know there’s a lot out there.”

Keith Eliuk, a Bremerton High junior, came to the fair hoping to learn what it would take to be an architecture major at WSU.

“I want to know what the requirements are to get in,” Eliuk said.

The numbers Davidson showed for incoming freshmen are ones that will only grow higher as Washington’s colleges continue to deal with growing demand and a desire to maintain smaller class sizes. In 2004, WSU freshmen averaged a 3.46 GPA and an SAT score slightly less than 1100.

For those wishing to stay a little closer to home, Tollefson emphasized the quality of programs at OC, where tuition is less and room and board might be free if living at home.

“Community colleges are a real bargain. Tuition is half that of universities and it’s a great place to start. We’re strong in science, art, engineering and professional and technical programs as well,” she said. “Many don’t realize what a gold mine there is right here in Bremerton.”

Students could also have a look at less traditional routes toward a degree such as the Art Institute of Seattle.

“I think a lot of what you hear about is those big public schools. Not that that’s a bad thing,” said Michelle Myers from the Art Institute. “But students should at least know about some of these other options. The way our students attend school is kind of non-traditional. Students go to school year-round ... and we’ve found that helps them in the long run.”

AIS is oriented toward placing graduates into careers in their field and associate’s degrees take less than two years and bachelor’s programs can be completed in three at the school.

“We’ve found it’s helpful not to have the chance to forget everything you’ve learned over the summer,” Myers said.

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