Oakland Heights Baptist Church in Cartersville was the site of the PROBE Fair, which gave hundreds of local students the chance to speak to representatives of 73 colleges and learn what their respective schools offer. Students hailed from Adairsville, Cartersville, Cass and Woodland high schools and Excel Christian Academy, with attendance estimated between 500 and 700.
The event was sponsored by the Etowah Scholarship Foundation. Paige Miller, the foundation's executive director, said the program helps in the nonprofit's ultimate goal of giving financial assistance to locals pursuing post-secondary opportunities.
"We give scholarships to universities, colleges and technical schools, so if our students here in Bartow County are not looking at going to college, then we can't give them scholarships," Miller said. "So [this event] is a win-win for everybody -- they get the information, we get to help them pursue a higher education, so we all come out ahead."
While most attending college representatives came from schools across the state, other promoted colleges from other Southeastern states -- Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana -- and even Northeastern states Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
"I think it's good to give students a range, because there are those that are looking to go outside the state of Georgia," Miller said. "Most students in this area will go to schools based in the Southeast, so that's what we look to provide, information from schools that they'll be looking to go to, but then also we want to provide some diversity so if students don't know, there may be a smaller school that they're not familiar with, they'll have the opportunity to find out some more information on it.
"Here in north Georgia, we have exposure to a lot of smaller schools, and of course you know the big schools in the SEC, the ACC, you know they offer degrees. But I think a lot of students in Bartow County are looking for kind of a niche college experience, and they need exposure to a variety of schools that they may not know about, and I think having a college fair like this provides the opportunity for them to come and find out some information on what they don't know about, and then they can do some more research on their own," Miller added.
Cartersville senior Bryson Read spoke to representatives from at least 10 colleges during his PROBE Fair visit Tuesday, with the University of Alabama at Birmingham coming up as a front-runner on his list.
"It's only two hours away, plus most people don't know, but you can cancel out the out-of-state fees with your GPA and SAT and ACT [scores], depending on what they are," Read said.
He added that he asked college reps several questions as he visited each one.
"I play soccer, so I'm trying to play soccer in college, so I'm looking for a good soccer program and somebody who offers sports management under their business program," Read said. "I just asked them if they have my major, then I ask them how big their campus is, what the student-to-teacher ratio is ... it all depends on what your preferences are. I actually want to go to a big college -- I used to go to a private school, so I want to experience something bigger.
"Most of this stuff, I'm just now finding out, so it's pretty educational," he added. "You just find out a lot of things most people don't know about college, and then you can go find what you're interested in and find out which colleges offer what you're looking for."
Seth Curlee, an Excel Christian Academy senior, said he came to the PROBE Fair with a pretty good idea of where he might want to go after graduation.
"I knew that Georgia Southern has a good business school, so I came to look at them," Curlee said. "Mainly I was looking at tuition. Another one I'm interested in is Valdosta State -- they have a business program and it's pretty good, but I just heard that Georgia Southern has a real good one. I'm considering some other [schools], but those are the ones that are on the top of my priorities."
Fellow Excel senior Kyu Jang said he is looking into Clayton State University's dual engineering degree program that it puts on through the Georgia Institute of Technology. He said he is looking to obtain a bachelor's in math from Clayton State and a bachelor's in engineering from Georgia Tech. The fair allowed him to talk to admissions officers to learn about the dual degree program, but he said Tuesday's event would be helpful to both those with some idea of college plans in mind and those who might have no idea where they want to go.
"I'm an international student, and I think this is a great opportunity for me to check out other schools and compare them to others. I think it's a great program," he said. "If I didn't know where I wanted to go, I'd probably come to here to talk to the officers and see what they'd offer me for tuition, their majors, and then their campus life."