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College Fair Helps Teens Grade Their Higher Education Prospects

Times Education Writer

It is only about 6 miles from Benjamin Franklin High School in the Highland Park section of Los Angeles to the downtown Convention Center. But for 150 Franklin juniors, the 20-minute bus ride on Thursday was a trip to the future.

Their destination was the Los Angeles National College Fair, a mammoth event where the most energetic students could have talked to representatives of 175 colleges and universities. Or, they just could have picked up a few brochures.

Either way, the idea was to start 11th-graders thinking now about the complicated educational decisions they face next year, sponsors said. That may involve a lot of teen-aged thinking because officials expect 15,000 students from 110 high schools in Los Angeles County to visit the two-day fair before it ends this afternoon.

Fair in Second Year

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“What we’re really trying to do is build self-esteem among our students and let them know, yes, they can go to college,” explained Jack Wright, the college admissions counselor at Franklin High who helped organize the fair, now in its second year.

He said that is especially important for the many minority and immigrant students in Los Angeles who will be the first persons in their families to attend college.

On Thursday morning, the fair was a high-spirited mob scene as students hopped from booth to booth, shopping for an education as they would for a stereo system. They grabbed flyers with abandon and asked questions about admissions requirements, financial aid, academic majors and social life.

At the most popular booths--USC, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Cal State Dominguez Hills and UC San Diego--it was difficult to get lengthy answers. But there was plenty of time to chat with counselors at less-crowded booths such as Johnson & Wales College in Rhode Island, St. Michael’s College in Vermont, or the University of Alaska.

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Despite the crowds, Franklin students were pleased. For example, Isabella Campopiano shopped for schools to pursue fashion design or advertising. She discovered the Otis Art Institute and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, both in Los Angeles. “I never heard of them before,” she said excitedly on the bus ride back to school.

A classmate, Quoc Chau, said he wanted a college that offers electrical engineering and has a decent number of Asian students. “I want to be comfortable,” said Quoc, who emigrated from Vietnam eight years ago. He stopped at the booths for USC, Princeton University, Occidental College, the University of San Francisco, New York University and Pomona College, among others. “I got a lot out of it,” he said.

However, students complained that only two of the 19 Cal State schools and four of the eight UC undergraduate campuses were represented there. That touched on a dispute between some state schools and the fair’s sponsor, the National Assn. of College Admission Counselors. Those state schools did not want to pay the $350 participation fee for each of the series of similar fairs held across the state this month, according to Jennifer Moe, the Woodbury University counselor who is the fair’s chairwoman. Plus, critics charged, some public schools are overwhelmed with applications and do not want to encourage more.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Rae Lee Siporin, UCLA’s admissions director, said the fee was not the main reason her school did not show up. “We believe the best way to do the job is with as much personal contact as we can muster. Those free-for-alls where you fill your shopping bag with as much as you can pick up is not my idea of personalized contact,” she said. Siporin acknowledged that the fair may be useful for some students and for out-of-state college officials who cannot visit California high schools as frequently as UCLA counselors do.

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John Mims represented UC Davis at the fair, telling students about the pretty countryside around the campus and its strong science programs. “I have to explain why you should come 400 miles to get a good education,” he said, explaining that UC Davis hopes to boost enrollment from Los Angeles.

Princeton was the only Ivy League school present. Its representative, Laura Clark, conceded that most of the young people filling out information cards at her booth had no chance of getting admitted to Princeton, although she did not want to discourage anyone. “I see myself as a general counselor. It’s important for them to get a bigger picture of the world,” she said.

The fair will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. There is no charge for entrance.


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