BEDFORD, N.Y. — It was clear from the overflowing parking lot on Tuesday at Fox Lane High School’s College Night that juniors and their parents were ready to buckle down and face the admissions process.
The Putnam Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services (PNW BOCES) put on its 17th annual College Night at Fox Lane, an admissions fair geared toward rising seniors.
The event hosted representatives from close to 175 colleges, universities and technical programs, from numerous SUNYs and CUNYs, to in-state schools such as Hamilton College and Pace University, to technical schools such as the Culinary Institute of America and FIT, to out-of-state schools as far away as Hawaii Pacific University.
PNW BOCES representative Terry O’Sullivan said that along with the students, who already have a lot to worry about, many of the parents attending are first-time college parents, so they are understandably terrified of the process. The competition, the financial burden — not to mention empty-nest syndrome — are all on their minds.
The Financing College workshop, one of many information sessions that night, usually goes on an hour longer than scheduled, O’Sullivan said.
“Tuition is getting out of hand,” she said. Students are getting into such debt that they have to take the jobs they can get rather than the jobs they want, she said.
Ella Wicnia, 17, a Fox Lane junior, said she and her friends have a lot of work to do, even though summer is coming up. “The essay, the common app,” she said. “I want to get ahold of all that before next year.”
Wicnia said she is trying to decide whether to start taking voice lessons, which she would enjoy, or focus on her fencing practice, which might look better on college applications.
Her mother, Jane, said the pressure to find a balance between enjoyment and resume-building is one of the toughest things about the college process.
“That’s the sad part. In this part of their childhood, you want to de-stress, to explore, do fun things, be happy as a kid, but there’s this looming deadline of college,” she said.
Applying for college is hard in other ways for first-generation college students like Bryan Maidana, 17, whose parents are from Paraguay and Argentina and do not speak English as their first language. His brother Victor, who graduated from Fox Lane in 2001, was the first person in his family to go to college, and now it’s Bryan’s turn.
He said he has learned to be an advocate for himself, seeking out the advice of guidance counselors and teachers from an early age and doing his own college research.
While his mother does all she can, he said, he is not like other students who have parents who can easily help him navigate the application process. “The motivation has to come from inside,” he said.