School buses from Hansberry, Mansueto, Rauner, and all of Noble’s other campuses pulled into the Credit One Arena on Wednesday, April 19. Excited juniors stepped out, pulling themselves together to prepare for an afternoon of speaking with college recruiters at Noble’s Annual Junior College Fair.
In the arena, every corner students turned into had another booth waiting for them with passionate recruiters and alumni ready to answer their questions about campus life and academic programs. Close to 3,000 students scattered across the arena, wandering to different colleges. Over 100 colleges were represented, allowing students to get a taste of many different kinds of schools.
For many students, the fair was the first time they became aware of just how many higher education options they had available to them.
“There were a lot of schools to visit… many that I didn’t know existed. Some of them caught my attention, especially the ones in California like Oxy (Occidental College),” Luis, a junior at Rauner College Prep, said, “I was really surprised about that one and how their sports culture is.”
The fair also helped students clarify for themselves what they might want from their college experience and gave them the opportunity to ask hard hitting questions that go beyond the college pamphlet.
“University of Vermont’s Accounting Business program really stood out to me… you don’t have to do extra steps to get where you want to go. You can just take the classes you want,” Amora, a junior from Hansberry College Prep explained, loving the simplicity of the program because she wouldn’t have to take electives and classes outside of her interests.
For some students, class size was a big factor.
“I asked about what freshman year looks like and about the class sizes for freshmen. I know some universities have smaller classes for freshmen year and bigger classes as well,” Lillian, a junior from Manuseto College Prep, added, “I want something smaller. Smaller classes help me focus and allow me to have more potential.”
For other students, their interests and hobbies were at the top of their mind when talking to college recruiters.
“When I draw, that brings me peace. When I run, that brings me peace…Whichever schools can give me both of them is great,” La’Terra, a junior from UIC College Prep, said, “Loyola is one of them… Loyola has a good art program and a great track team.”
“I’m interested in Engineering. My dad really inspired me as he worked as a mechanic and I want to follow in his footsteps,” Joshua, a junior from Hansberry, said, “Bradley University stood out to me. I spent a night there and got to experience campus life. Since that was a while ago, things could’ve changed and I want to explore Bradley again.”
This was the first in-person college fair for Noble juniors in four years due to COVID-19 pandemic. It went off without a hitch. Teachers, advisors, and staff from across Noble supported each other and kept the event moving, helping students navigate the arena and use their time wisely. Dr. Rachael Rosen, one of the organizers of the College Fair and Noble’s Pre-College & Career Program Manager, was happy to see how deeply staff and students engaged with the event.
“It felt especially significant and special for our students and staff because it was in-person,” Dr. Rosen said, “There were so many memorable moments from the fair, but, overwhelmingly, it was seeing our students have meaningful conversations with the college admissions representatives and asking insightful questions that really stood out to me.”
College recruiters agreed that they loved interacting with Noble’s inquisitive and prepared students. For Naeem Brown, a recruiter at Villanova University, this was his first time at the Noble College Fair.
“It’s been great. I definitely could see myself coming back again,” Brown said, “Students have been asking me about what programs are popular at our university, general college culture on campus, and details about our location.”
Brown’s charisma and honesty when talking with students stood out to Giovanni, a student at Rauner College Prep.
“I’m interested in Villanova. Naeem was super friendly and welcoming. He made the school and culture sound really great, and I want to go there,” Giovanni said.
Bonita O’Banion, a 1960 alumnus of Fisk University and former CPS teacher, equally enjoyed her time with Noble students.
“The students are fantastic!” O’Banion said, “They’re very interested in knowing about the universities. They ask very good questions – they want to know what it’s gonna take to get into the university of their choice, they want to know about financial aid, and they ask about SAT scores.”
O’Banion also spoke a lot to the strength of Fisk University as an HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities). She said her husband, sons, and several of her family members have attended and been successful.
“If you really want to graduate, you go to Fisk,” O’Banion said, saying that the “camaraderie” and “family-oriented” style of the university encourages students to reach graduation.
For next year, Dr. Rosen said she would like to have more HBCUs attend.
“We have a strong alumni presence at HBCUs, so we would like to tap our alumni to attend the fair and represent their college or university,” Dr. Rosen said. Her other goal for next year, she said, is to secure the attendance of at least 30 more college representatives.
While Dr. Rosen is hopeful for an even greater College Fair next year, there’s no denying that this year’s fair was a huge success. Several students walked away with useful knowledge about all kinds of colleges and left the fair feeling ecstatic about the future.
However, to the juniors who might have left also feeling unsure or nervous about the future, Dr. Rosen has a message of encouragement for you:
“Try not to put too much pressure on yourselves. You have already accomplished so much, you just need to put one foot in front of the other and keep plugging along. The journey towards individual success and personal fulfillment is not an easy one, but it is worth it.”