If you can find yourself in a room with 200 college representatives, you just may be at College Night at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
This annual college fair now serves students from throughout the south suburban area as well as Indiana.
The College Night event is 90 minutes of one-to-one conversations that give students a chance to learn about the various majors, opportunities for research, fun with extracurriculars and admissions requirements.
While some high schools join forces to host similar events at a mutual sites, H-F puts together its own fair. An estimated 1,400 students and parents attended the October 2015 College Night.
“I can truly attest it’s because of the students we have that college reps come back year after year,” said H-F college counselor Brad Kain. “We hear that over and over and over. The College Night that we do, it’s the best and the biggest one in the south suburbs. Ours stands alone.”
The fair is also unique in that H-F invites freshmen through seniors to attend.
“We tell the freshmen parents it’s a good time to come out and start having that (college) conversation,” said Guidance Department Chairman Jim Schmidt.
“We want to make sure that every family has as much information as they can possibly get. Is it a little selfish on our part? Yes,” says H-F college counselor Kevin Coy. But he knows that having all that information in the hands of students early on makes the job of working with students toward a college decision much easier two or three years down the road.
Nate Bargar, an admissions representative from the University of Cincinnati, has been drawn to the event because of H-F’s high number of courses, the high number of colleges its students apply to and its diverse population.
At the 2015 College Night, Bargar met with an H-F student who was considering the University of Cincinnati for its graphic design program. Another had been to a sports camp in the summer and was being recruited by the athletic department. A third student wanted to talk about the university’s urban campus.
The Midwest is one of the most heavily recruited areas in the country, Bargar said. H-F’s College Night is a testament to that.
“Overall what H-F students have proven is they are mobile and well-rounded,” Bargar noted. That makes the University of Cincinnati—about a five-hour drive from Chicago—a viable option for H-F students.
Recruiters “like talking to the students,” Kain said. “The students ask good questions. We hear that time and time again.
“College Nights are productive evenings for the reps. Productive doesn’t mean they had so many (response) cards, but that they’re having positive conversations,” he added.
Kain and Coy offer students a booklet that helps them prepare for College Night. It includes tips on how to get additional information, keep track of important deadlines and ask recruiters pertinent questions, such as those regarding class size, graduation rates and campus life basics, like meal plans.
“Brad and Kevin, the college counselors at H-F, do a great job preparing their students for college. This is demonstrated at the annual College Night and is an event that every university should attend,” said Mike Melinder, a recruiter for the University of Iowa who has attended College Night since 2007.
Another reason for the exceptional college and university response is the many personal contacts Kain, Cole and Schmidt make throughout the year, as well as their outreach through organizations. Coy just completed two years on the University of Illinois Advisory Board. Schmidt is serving his fourth year on the University of Minnesota Advisory Board. Kain is on the executive board of the Illinois Association of College and Admissions Counselors.
H-F makes its facilities available to college recruiters who schedule meetings with students from throughout the Chicago area. Kain and Coy make time to meet with every college rep that comes to H-F to develop the one-to-one relationships.
“When we travel we talk to other counselors over lunch. We’re out there a lot. And the reason it’s so important is we keep our finger on the pulse of what’s going on and what’s changing and what’s new,” Kain said. “Bringing that back here is really important.”
“We’re here to build relationships (throughout the United States), and we have,” Coy added. “I think that’s the part that I’ve most cherished about this position. Brad has a rep at Yale that he can call any time. I have a rep at Harvard that I can call any time and they answer the phone and that’s a great thing.”