'One-Stop Shopping' for College; Prospective Students Check Higher Education Options

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson, Times-Union staff writer

In a town brimming with megastores, supermarkets and big-box retailers, it was probably natural that even choosing a college could be done at a mega-center.

Yesterday, there was a big demand for that.

The National College Fair, a yearly road show introducing academic-minded teens to recruiters from 150 schools, drew at least 3,000 people to Jacksonville's Prime Osborn Convention Center before noon.

"It's like one-stop shopping," said Harriett Charity, whose daughter, Renee, is a junior at Paxon School for Advanced Studies. The family chatted with recruiters from the Air Force Academy, Virginia Military Institute, Tuskegee University and others while people around them hunted for schools in a brochure that showed the aisle and table number for each college.

The fair has grown since moving out of the Coliseum in the 1990s.

"You've got a lot of good kids chasing after not that many colleges here in Florida," said Frank Lawler, an alumnus and ardent pitchman for Norwich University, an 1,800-student school in Northfield, Vt. "Florida is a good recruiting area."

Schools and teens both tried to cut through the buzz and find someone who matched their particular needs.

"Architecture" screamed an overhead sign for Southern Polytechnic State University, a small Georgia college that printed its actual name in smaller font. The name won't mean anything to kids, but the school has a great architecture program that could attract some bright prospects, recruitment director Jim Cooper said. …