College choices more than academic

Students weigh university offerings, aesthetics, and size

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— Choosing the right college is one of most pressure-filled tasks a high school student faces.

Parents want an affordable and high-ranking college for their daughter or son.

Friends want others to tag along with them.

But ultimately, the decision is personal.

For Jessica Fritz, seeing a college campus before making the fateful choice confirmed her doubts of a large school it wouldn't be for her.

Brick buildings and ivy vines seem to be the ideal scene on typical college campuses for many high school students. But many times, visiting a campus will show students that they're not all beautifully manicured.

Fritz, a Steamboat Springs senior, said she decided on the University of Puget Sound in Washington because it was much smaller compared to her second choice, the University of Oregon.

"I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go. I chose (Puget Sound) because it's a smaller school," Fritz said, who will attend the university next fall to play soccer and study business.

Mimicking Steamboat's small town characteristics, Fritz said that's where she'll be more comfortable.

With a small campus in a private school and a low number of enrolled students, that also means more one-on-one attention from professors.

Fritz said she should find her new home just as appealing as Steamboat.

Mike Campbell, counselor at SSHS for about 14 years, said when students walk in to his office and don't have a clue as to where they should apply for colleges, he takes them through a step-by-step process.

"First you have to look at a student's academic record," Campbell said. "One of the goals we have is to meet with every kid. We try to do that once or twice a year."

Through a computer-operated college search, students can plug in bits of information, such as location, size of school, affordability, public or private and what subjects areas a students would like to study, in order to receive a computer spit-out of applicable information.

"What do you want to do when you grow up is the toughest question," Campbell said. "There's a lot of pressure to go to a 4-year school, but some kids are better served for a 2-year."

Campbell also said trade and technical schools are overlooked, especially in Steamboat.

While many grown adults still question what it is they want to do when they grow up, it's that much more difficult for 18-year-olds to decide their future career.

However, Campbell said many don't follow through with their intended major.

"About one-third of students finished in the degree programs that they declared," Campbell said. "If a student does know (what they want to declare as a major), it makes it easier for them."

But for Andrew Litzau, college was not questionable.

"I applied to one school. And I was accepted even before I applied," SSHS senior Litzau said. "I was visiting the campus and filled out a survey, and then they called me."

Litzau will enroll at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, the largest 4-year business and culinary arts school in the country, next fall.

Having been accepted to the honors program, Litzau's financial situation may ease.

Campbell said that between 28 and 30 local scholarships are available, and usually $60,000 dispersed, to graduating high school seniors every year.

But those who applied for these scholarships will need to wait until June 2, graduation day, to find out if they received money for college or not.

Because of Steamboat's affluence, Campbell said many who live here, who can afford to live here, have a bit of wealth. And most often than not, those people have college educations, he said.

"There's a lot of reasons why a kid will go on to college," Campbell said. "The biggest one is if the parents have a high level of education. There's a lot of support (in Steamboat) to further education."

Campbell said other reasons for continuing are the pressures from friends and family and the foreseeable future. If they want the desired job, they've got to go to college, he said.

"Hopefully they go for the long-range goals," Campbell said.

In 1999, of the approximate 100 students who graduated from Steamboat Springs High School, 77 percent went to a college, university or trade/technical school immediately after high school, compared the national average of 50 percent.

Baby boomer offspring, the eco boomers, have created an influx in college enrollment. As a result, colleges are tightening up their admission requirements.

"The number of applicants is higher and schools are more picky," Campbell said of the 10-plus years colleges have before they see a decline from the college entrance boom.

While Fritz applied to three colleges, writing essays on different subjects for each, she said the college preparations can consume a lot of time.

Litzau said preparing scholarship essays and applications was more stressful than filling out college applications, although he did only apply to one. Fritz agreed.

As of this year, all high school juniors are required to take the state-mandated ACT, American College Test.

Although the Scholastic Aptitude Test, has been questioned by Texas and California college boards, Campbell said it is still one of the best tests.

Campbell said many colleges on the coasts use the SATs, while the middle states use the ACTs.

Although Fritz and Litzau don't have expectations of college life, Fritz admitted that she thinks she'll have a difficult academic regimen, but is excited about meeting new people and being in a different place.

SSHS senior Carrie Good couldn't have said it better.

"I want it to just be different or be new," Good said, who will also study business next fall at Colorado State University.

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