Bemidji State Education Fair returns, hosting nearly 900 students

BEMIDJI — The opportunity for an in-person education fair after two years of virtual fairs couldn’t come soon enough for Patty Hartshorn, an admissions representative for Northwest Technical College.

“There’s a very kinetic ability to connect in person versus the online fairs. Certainly, we tried (virtual fairs) and we were able to connect with some people, and that was great,” Hartshorn said, ''but it’s missing this kind of energy.”

As it turns out, 2022 was the year for this return as nearly 900 high school students were considering their post-graduation options at Bemidji State's Education Fair — sponsored by the Minnesota Association for College Admission Counseling — on Tuesday in the Beaux Arts Ballroom.

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Patty Hartshorn, an admissions representative for Northwest Technical College, talks with a student during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Kim Fisher, interim associate director of admissions at BSU, echoed Hartshorn’s sentiments regarding virtual fairs — held over Zoom or other video conferencing software — and the lower student engagement that came along with them.

“The virtual fairs just weren’t as effective. It was difficult to engage with students online and even the traffic was much lower in a virtual fair than it is at in-person college fairs,” Fisher detailed. “It’s so much more effective to meet with students in person, for them to physically see all these different schools represented.”

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Reigning from 13 high schools across the region, students could visit with representatives of 57 public and private colleges, universities, community colleges, technical colleges and specialty schools in a format crucial for student recruitment.

“The opportunity to get a wide sampling of the types of educational opportunities out there is definitely much more accessible and visible in this format,” Hartshorn added. “They get to look at four-year institutions, get to look at in-state, out-of-state schools, private and public. And they can all do it in the space of an hour.”

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Kristian Santiago, with the University of St. Thomas, talks to a group of students during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

While a majority of booths represented schools from the Midwest, Melissa Cunningham kept busy recruiting on behalf of the University of Strathclyde-Glasgow in Scotland.

Marking the university’s first time at an education fair in Minnesota, Cunningham wanted to highlight study abroad opportunities for students.

“We’ve done a few virtual events over the pandemic, so we wanted to be here in person because we’re seeing more and more interest from students in the Midwest in overseas study,” Cunningham said.

Glasgow has had a presence at other fairs in California, Illinois and Texas. In doing so, Cunningham hopes to emphasize the accessibility of higher education abroad.

“I think sometimes that students and parents might think that the cost is a huge barrier,” Cunningham added. “Our tuition fees are quite often akin to out-of-state tuition fees and it’s a four-year degree program like in the U.S., as well.”

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Melissa Cunningham, with the University of Strathclyde-Glasgow, chats with a student during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

No matter which path a student pursues, Hartshorn wants them to know that they have time to pick what’s right for them.

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“We have students who traditionally go to college when they finish high school. We have students go into the military, those who take gap years,” Hartshorn detailed. “Maybe they didn’t choose to attend college and decided later in life that they had a different career trajectory they wanted to pick, and then they pursue those opportunities.”

Fisher wants students to understand their options that extend beyond attending a four-year college or even earning an associate’s degree and offered a piece of advice.

“As long as they do something,” Fisher left off. “Think about what your plans are after high school and start getting yourself set up for that.”

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Students hear from a Ridgewater College representative during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

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Students chat with Luther College representative Peder Smith, left, during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

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Anna Cox, with Augsburg University, converses with a group of students during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

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Students visit with a Bemidji State University representative during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

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Scott Schulz, with the University of Minnesota Duluth, talks to a student during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

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Sheree Haynie, with the University of Nebraska Omaha, visits with a student during an education fair on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer


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