High School, Middle School Students Line Up for College; Thousands Attended a College Fair at the Prime Osborn Center

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Byline: JEREMY COX

Facing a future as uncertain as that of any American generation, thousands of high school and middle school students - yes, middle school - went college-shopping Saturday in downtown Jacksonville.

In a down economy, many said they were looking for a way up - and finding it in a four-year commitment to post-secondary learning.

"She doesn't know what she wants to do in college," Annette Schaffhauser said as she waited in the snaking registration line to get into the National College Fair with her daughter, Alexis, a Fletcher High School junior. "She just knows she wants to go to college."

Her and everybody else, it seems.

Across the country, applications are streaming into colleges, particularly more-economical public schools, at an unprecedented clip. But many of those schools are facing strapped budgets and fewer open slots, creating intense competition for admissions.

In a reflection of the increased pressure that college aspirants face, Saturday's fair featured a new workshop, titled, "Preparing Your Middle School Student for College NOW."

If 17-year-old Kregory Youngblood was feeling the pressure, he didn't let it show.

"I want to see what I'm working with, see what schools fit me," the Baldwin Middle-Senior High School junior said coolly.

He said he wants to go into criminal justice or maybe electronic arts. At the top of his collegiate list: Florida State University and Auburn University.

With 175 institutions represented at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, Youngblood and the other 5,000 or so attendees had plenty of choices. …