Juniors and seniors at St. Charles High School are getting a taste of college campus life before they graduate.
In what counselors believe is the only such program in the county, they take bus loads of students several times a winter to college campuses around the state. On these one-day trips, students get a first-hand look at the campuses and a chance to talk to administrators. Best of all, they are able to talk to St. Charles High graduates attending those universities.
The students' interests dictate which schools they visit, said John Smith, head counselor at the high school. In order to go, the students must have a grade-point average of at least 2.0. They go on school time, and the only cost for them is their share of the bus trip and lunch, a total of $20 to $30.
Smith said he came up with the idea when he took his daughter and several of her friends to visit Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield in 1989. "It just kind of evolved," he said. He took his first group of students from school in 1990. This past fall, he and John Prinster, the other counselor involved, took 43 students to the University of Missouri at Columbia, 38 to Lindenwood College, 33 to Northeast Missouri State University at Kirksville and 25 students and three parents to Southwest.
The program, said Prinster, can change minds. After a trip, some students find they know where they don't want to go. "They're better able to make a choice," he said. "It's most important to have as much information as they can have."
A sampling of students who have gone on trips this winter indicates they feel it's time well spent.
Junior Andrea Konnerth took trips to Northeast and Southwest. Both have education programs and equestrian teams, two of her interests. Because of what she found on the trips, she's leaning toward Southwest, which has a larger education department.
She said there's an advantage to visiting a campus on an organized trip with a group. "You get an overview. Everything is pretty well set up and more organized."
She still plans on returning to the schools with her parents to take a closer look at what they have to offer.
Senior Jason Callaway wants to study psychology in college. After visiting both the Springfield and Columbia campuses, he said, he "felt more comfortable at MU. It felt more homey." Without the trips, he said, he probably would not have had any idea of what to expect.
"It was a fun experience to get the tour of the colleges and see what the campus is like," he said. "You can ask any …