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      Students search out college options

      Students and their parents came out Northwestern Michigan College Tuesday night for the annual Traverse Bay Area College Night, the largest college fair in Northern Michigan.

      Hundreds of students crowded into the Hagerty Center to learn about what the more than 50 colleges represented there have to offer.

      â??They learn a little bit about what campus is like, the facilities, the programs,â?? said Karen Szcodronski, a TBAISD consultant and facilitator of the event.

      Students asked the experts their questions regarding school size, housing, and extracurricular activities.

      For students who have an idea of what they're looking for, the one-on-one interaction with school representatives can make a difference.

      â??It's really nice to be able to meet the representatives and talk to them so we can hear about the college before we actually make the decision to go somewhere,â?? said high school senior Emily Ledford.

      Some students lean more toward attending a community college, then transferring to a university, but not Ledford.

      â??I'm gung-ho about four year and getting out of here,â?? said Ledford. She is interested in getting a degree that requires a four-year college, something her mother understands, but knows the family will have to plan for the larger expense.

      â??Some heavy duty scholarship applying is going to be in order to make it happen,â?? said Kathy Ledford, Emilyâ??s mom.

      College representatives said they have noticed some trends when it comes to students' decisions regarding community college.

      â??More students are transferring for the economic reason behind the cost of college education,â?? Brian Matchett, a coordinator within the MSU Agriculture Department. â??The other thing that's happening is people are valuing a community college education more than they have in the past. Community Colleges are becoming more and more robust every year. They're nimble, they're changing; theyâ??re addressing the needs that both our students and industries out there have. So I think universities are recognizing that.

      Mancelona and Forest Area high schools bussed students to the college fair Tuesday night to make sure they had the opportunity to learn more about their college options.

      Another college fair will take place Wednesday night at Cadillac High School. It runs from 6:30 to 8pm.

      Szcodronski recommends students start considering college options in tenth grade.

      â??I really encourage sophomores to come. It gives them a first glimpse of a lot of these universities. Then they can start narrowing it down. Then go and visit the ones they're really interest in.â??

      Students remarked that they were surprised at how many colleges were represented at the event.

      â??You think of the ones you know, or your friend went to or your parents went to, but there's a wide variety of schools with a lot to of great programs,â?? said Szcodronski.