Christian College Fairs Come to South Florida
The transition from high school to college is such a pivotal time, setting the trajectory for the future and establishing friendships that often last a lifetime. Many parents have strong allegiances to their alma mater and look forward to the day when their child will carry on their legacy. However, finding the best college fit is a very individual choice that should be tailored to the personalities and priorities of each student. We’ve compiled this Christian College Guide to help with the discovery process, focusing on institutions who teach from a Christian worldview.
Also, during the month of September, representatives from Christian colleges across the country will meet with graduating seniors and juniors at Florida Christian College Fairs hosted at the Christian high schools throughout the state. Locally, the college fairs will be held at the following schools.
- Westminster Christian Academy, Fort Lauderdale; Sept. 11, 9 – 11 a.m.
- Jupiter Christian School, Jupiter; Sept. 12, 10 – 11:30 a.m.
- Calvary Christian Academy, Fort Lauderdale; Sept. 12, 5 – 6:30 p.m.
They will then continue on to Christian high schools in Naples, Fort Myers, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater, Seffner, Oviedo, Orlando and Jacksonville.
Colleges with representatives registered to participate in the Christian College Fairs are marked with an asterisk * in the Christian College Guide on pages 24-30.
The purpose of College Fairs
Donna Payner, College Fair Circuit Coordinator and Director of College Planning at Westminster Academy, said “The purpose of the college fair is to connect Christian students from covenant families to Christian colleges where they can continue their education in a place that’s teaching biblical worldview.”
Preparation in advance is critical. “I have personal meetings with each one of my seniors to talk about what’s financially realistic for their families, whether they want to stay in-state or go out-of-state and what are they ultimately looking for in a college,” said Payner. “Every family is looking for different things and has different financial situations they have to consider. Once they’ve expressed those then I try to guide them toward colleges.”
Because the representatives travelling here are often the ones making admissions decisions, it is important that students do some research ahead of time so they are prepared to ask good questions.
How can students prepare?
- Explore the list of colleges that are coming and go to those college websites.
- Look for which colleges offer the major they think they want to study.
- Consider the location and whether or not that’s a realistic location.
- Find a question that’s not easily answered on the website to ask the college representative.
- Determine whether the activities you’re interested in are available at the college.
- Factor in the cost and what type of financial ad may be needed.
- Get organized in advance with your questions on a notepad.
- Prioritize which colleges you are most interested in and visit their booths first.
- Speak up and dress for success. Like in an interview, this is your opportunity to get the questions answered that will help you make a good decision about your future. Be Assertive and professional.
How can parents help?
It is important for the student to know themselves and for a parent to know their child. Consider how well they adjust to new situations and how resilient they are.
Perhaps the biggest tip Payner provides parents is to communicate with their child about what is realistic for their family financially. “Parents and students should have this conversation before they start filling out applications because it can be devastating to get into one of your top choice colleges just for your parents to say, ‘I’m sorry honey we can’t afford this.’”
Then talk about whether they want to be in-state or out of state. “If it’s hard to get back and forth from a place and a student is homesick that could make a big difference on whether they stay there and finish,” said Payner. “Climate makes a huge difference, especially for students from Florida who are not used to the cold.”
When it comes to financial aid, Payner suggests students apply to colleges early, get accepted early and complete their FAFSA early because that puts them in line for the money that is given away on a first come first served basis. She suggests having these conversations the summer before their junior and senior year and being ready to finish college applications by November 1.
If you do not attend one of the high schools the Florida Christian College Fairs are visiting, you may still be able to attend. Please contact the guidance counselor at the host school to gain access.
Tips to Stand Out on Your College Applications
Getting accepted to your dream college can be a competitive process. College Fair Circuit Coordinator and Director of College Planning at Westminster Academy Donna Payner offers the following tips to help students stand out in the college application process.
When doing the resume or activities part of the application, talk about what your role was in the club, not what the purpose of the club is because college admission counselors know these nationally-recognized clubs. They want to know what that student did personally to contribute to that club.
Always look for opportunities to highlight leadership roles, especially if there’s been a progression. For instance if you’ve been in key club for four years, you started out as just a member then you were a committee chairman and then you were elected president, that shows a progression of leadership for which you made a big contribution. Not everyone will have the opportunity to be president of a club, but leadership can still be demonstrated through participation on committees.
Volunteer in an area you’re passionate about. If you’re passionate about the environment, then volunteer to help the environment. If you’re passionate about working with children, then your volunteer service should reflect that. Colleges want to see you demonstrate that passion, and a long-term commitment is more important to colleges than a lot of scattered experiences all over.
When it comes to essay topics, Christian colleges often want to hear your testimony and how you live out your faith within your community. Secular colleges tend to look for a student to show who they were, how they’ve encountered an obstacle, how they’ve grown throughout high school and why they’re ready for college. Demonstrate resiliency, maturity and problem solving.
Prepare early for the standardized testing process. Those SATs and ACTs should really be something that happens spring of the junior year or the summer between junior and senior year and should be wrapping up by October or November of the senior year.
Florida public universities continue to require test scores, but many colleges across the US remain test optional as they watch how the students who started in the 2021-2022 school year progress through their college experience. Students should check the college websites. To determine if they should submit a test score, they should check the Admitted Student Profile on the admissions page to see if their scores are competitive and would ultimately help them in the admissions process. Colleges that are test optional typically say test scores are just another piece of the puzzle, but they can be a piece that helps them make a decision.
The most important tip Payner offers is to apply early and complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form early so you will be first in line for acceptance and financial aid. Learn more at studentaid.gov.