By Megan McVay
On April 25, the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) hosted the first districtwide College Night and Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, bringing 118 colleges and over 5,000 students together for an informative night.
Since 2004, the Torrey Pines High School and Canyon Crest Academy counseling departments have collaborated to host an annual joint college night. However, this year, due to recent counselor cuts, the counseling departments were faced with less funding and fewer team members to plan the event. As a result, they decided to organize a district-wide college fair accommodating all five high schools. The SDUHSD office and a private donor funded the College Night and Fair.
Jayme Cambra and Jennifer Magruder, counselors at Torrey Pines High School, were the coordinators behind the event and began planning in early October.
“We decided to hold our fair the same week as the NACAC College Fair at the San Diego Convention Center. Since the representatives were already going to be in town, it doubled their access to students and worked well with their travel schedules,” said Cambra.
After determining the venue and date, the counselors began contacting a variety of different community colleges, state schools, ivy-league universities and specialty schools in the pursuit of catering to the 8,000 diverse high school students in the district.
In addition to traditional universities, they received RSVPs from college representatives of art, engineering and culinary schools as well as financial planning and test prep companies.
Upon arrival at 6:30 p.m., students, parents and even middle school students headed to the Exhibit Hall, where there were two long aisles of narrow tables, each table representing a different college. Students moved from table to table, talking to college representatives and admission officers, and collecting a plethora of informational brochures, flyers and student publications.
With tables ranging from Harvard University to the Fashion Institute of Design, students and parents were provided with a variety of information from many different schools.
“This community is college driven, not only our school [TPHS] but our entire district. It’s good for kids to be able to see that there are more colleges out there than the 10 they hear about. The kids also get to learn about colleges that might be a better fit for them,” said Cambra.
To help run the event, seven student ambassadors were chosen from each school in the district to hand out flyers, direct parents and assist the college representatives.
“As a student ambassador, I was assigned to help the representatives of UCSD, Vanderbilt and Paul Mitchell School of Design. I showed them where they were supposed to be and helped them set up their tables. It was really cool that I got to spend time face to face with representatives of the colleges I am interested in,” said Torrey Pines High School junior Natalie Wynne.
In addition to the fair portion of the event, there were also “SDUHSD College Led Information Sessions” held in the Missions Tower. Both counselors and college admissions officers led 12 different seminars, ranging in topic from the financial aid workshop to the “how to write a college essay” session.
“One of our main goals as counselors is to provide our students with access to college representatives. It would have been easy with counselor cuts to not hold the college fair this year because it takes a lot of planning, but it’s a big part of what we do and we weren’t about to let it go,” said Torrey Pines High School counselor Jennifer Magruder.