FMCC holds college fair

From left; Fulton- Montgomery Community College professors Charlene Dybas, Julie Lindh, Jeremy Spraggs and Martin Waffle and education and career planning specialist Andrea Scribner participate in a panel discussion at the school during the Tri-County Counselors Association college fair on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

JOHNSTOWN — Prospective college students and their parents had a chance to hear about the transition from college to high school, career options for two-year degree holders and the transfer process from community college to four-year institutions from Fulton Montgomery Community College staff and some recent college graduates and their parents during the annual Tri-County Counselors Association college fair at FMCC on Wednesday.

Representatives from more than 70 colleges and universities were on hand during the event to talk with area residents and current high school and community college students.

During the evening session, two panel discussions were held featuring an FMCC professors and a career counselor and two recent college graduates and parents of recent grads to give prospective students and parents some insight into the many available paths to higher education and career fields.

Professors Charlene Dybas, Julie Lindh, Jeremy Spraggs and Martin Waffle along with education and career planning specialist Andrea Scribner and associate dean for student recruitment and admission Laura LaPorte noted that there are a host of job opportunities available to associate degree and two year certification holders, suggesting that students delve more deeply into the recommended degrees for different fields.

Waffle pointed to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website as a great resource to determine what degrees are needed in certain fields and to view employment rates and industry job growth projections when deciding what to pursue.

From left; Darryl, Kelly, Marissa and Aaron White and Karen McConnell participate in a panel discussion at Fulton-Montgomery Community College during the Tri-County Counselors Association college fair on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

Additionally, the computer science professor noted that his department and many others at FMCC have separate tracks for students planning to continue their studies at four-year schools and those that will seek jobs immediately after completing course work at the community college.

All of the staffers agreed that the small college is part of a close knit community and there are strong relationships between the school and area businesses. Students can make their own business connections through internships that can later turn into jobs or the professors say they often get calls from employers asking for candidate referrals to fill specific job openings.

“Employers are constantly calling us, they know we’re here, they know who to contact,” Scribner said. “Being in a small school you get to know students. If you get a call from an employer you can put them in touch with a certain student.”

“A lot of people really like what we’re doing here,” Lindh added.

Lindh said she likes to stay in touch with former students who she can help with referrals and references. She noted that students often form their own networks that follow them into their careers, giving them professional connections locally in a variety fields.

During the second panel recent college graduates Marissa and Aaron White both said making connections while attending community college was important for them and they found joining extracurricular activities to be beneficial.

“It helped me find my place there,” said Marissa White who attended Hudson Valley Community College for two years before receiving her bachelors degree in civil engineering from Clarkson University.

Aaron White, who attended FMCC for two years before attending the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, said community college could be viewed as a stepping stone between high school and college that offered a nice transition for himself and his sister after they graduated from Broadalbin-Perth High School.

The siblings said they knew they wanted to continue their studies at four-year schools and called schools they were interested in transferring to well in advance to find explore their options.

Marissa White noted that one school she called lacked a transfer process and she quickly eliminated that option, whereas other schools have transfer agreements with community colleges that streamline the process and make it easy to figure out what credits are needed for certain degree paths.

Their parents, Darryl and Kelly White, said having their children attend two years of community college helped “tremendously,” greatly reducing the overall cost of their educations.

Parents Karen McConnell and Charla Simonson, who also participated in the panel, noted that the cost of attending a particular college has to be part of the equation while students try to decide where to go.

Simonson, who is a school counselor at B-P high school, added that the “sticker price” for various institutions is rarely the price a student will actually pay and shouldn’t cause a student to rule out a school they are interested in out of hand. She recommended that prospective students talk to their high school counselors and university admission counselors about scholarship opportunities.

For students that are concerned about the “stigma” surrounding two-year schools, Marissa White pointed out that community colleges offer students the chance to figure out how to do well in college before moving on to a four-year institution where they will establish a new grade point average.

“It’s what you make of it,” her mother added.