Counselor Organizes ‘Instant Admission’ College Fair

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Could an early offer of admission encourage more minority students to pursue postsecondary education?

A Maryland counselor put that idea to the test this fall by organizing an “instant admission college fair.”

The event, held last month, drew students from 20 Baltimore County high schools and featured admission representatives from 15 historically black colleges and universities.

High school seniors — armed with their transcripts, test scores, and optional writing samples and recommendation letters — met with college reps and received admission decisions on-site. By the end of the day, more than 950 acceptances had been extended to students.

Event organizer Ken Berlett Jr., who leads the counseling department at Milford Mill Academy, said the students he serves face barriers when applying to college. The multi-step application process, which includes several bureaucratic hurdles, often deters talented first-generation students from exploring all their options, he said.

“Our kids steer away because they don’t know what to do in terms of pursuing education at the next level,” Berlett told The Baltimore Sun. “Our goal is to eliminate the application process and the application fees.”

The fair was offered free of cost to students. Berlett and counselors at the other participating high schools will need to wait until next fall to see if the new approach increases college attendance rates. But early reactions from those in attendance suggest that the fair had at least gotten students excited about the prospect of higher education, said Aaries Reed, assistant director of undergraduate admission and recruitment at Morgan State University (MD).

“When we can have them leave (the fair) with that instant gratification, they absolutely love it,” said Reed, a NACAC member. “The counselors love it, the students love it and it helps the seniors remain motivated, knowing they have a great school that absolutely wants them.”

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Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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