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Island Coast to host annual College Night

By Staff | Feb 9, 2013

Nearly 70 universities, colleges and technical schools from Florida and from out of state will be represented Tuesday at the 4th Annual College Night.

Hosted by Island Coast High School, the event will be held from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at 2125 De Navarra Parkway. It is free and open to all Lee County high school students and eighth-graders – public or private – as well as their parents.

Nancy Hagy, a teacher at Island Coast High and an organizer for the event, noted that even students from Naples and Port Charlotte attended in 2012.

“We’re hoping to hit three counties,” she said of this year’s fair.

The first year, the event had about two dozen institutions.

“Each year, it just got a little bit bigger, a little bit better,” she said.

In 2012, 63 educational institutions took part, with an estimated 2,500 people in attendance. As of Thursday, 66 had signed up for this year.

“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to pull in 3,000,” Hagy said.

The fair will feature small, medium and large colleges and universities, including the Big 10 and SEC. There will be representatives from technical institutions that specialize in areas like digital media and culinary arts.

“It is a college and career fair,” she said.

Hagy explained that some students may not be able to go to a two-year or four-year school, or they simply may not one to attend one of those schools.

“It’s just not strictly four-year colleges,” she said of the College Night participants. “There’s something for everyone.”

Some new additions this year include the Navy and Air Force.

“We have all the military coming,” Hagy said.

Others are the Digital Media Arts College in Boca Raton, Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, the University of Alabama At Birmingham and Penn State. Some are coming from as far away as Minnesota and New Mexico.

“There might be a college there that they’ve never heard of,” she said, adding that it may then end up being the one and the student loves it.

Or, they may discover they do have a shot at that Big 10 school.

“It’s just as important for parents to come as it is for students,” Hagy added. “They need to be there to find out what’s going on, too.”

Students can also comparison shop tuitions at the fair.

“Sometimes kids find it cheaper to go out of state,” she said.

While all of the representatives will have information available on their school, some have given away T-shirts and other items to attendees in the past. Others have waived registration fees or may need to fill a quota.

“Each school brings something different,” Hagy said.

For the first time this year, Island Coast High has partnered with Hodges University to offer a free financial aid workshop to attendees. One session will be held from 5:30 p.m. -6 p.m., and the second session is from 7 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

“We are holding a session prior to College Night and a half hour at the end,” Theresa Garratt, the director of high school relations for Hodges, said.

“We want it just to be a supplement,” she said.

The workshop will cover financial aid policies and procedures, including applying for federal programs, Bright Futures and other state scholarships. Tips and tricks on how to make the process easier will also be offered.

“Students want to know how to fund college. We explain how to fund your college education,” Garratt said. “We try to take all the mystery out of it.”

She noted that financial aid can feel like a complicated process.

“But if your know the steps of the process, it can become very easy and very attainable,” Garratt said.

Hodges recently hosted the school district’s financial aid nights.

“This is just another opportunity to work with parents and students and help them out,” she said.

Handouts will be available for attendees to take home.

The workshops will be in the auditorium, and the fair will be in the gym.

For more information on College Night, contact (239) 458-0362.