Getting on track

GREENFIELD — Among high school students preparing for college, it is known simply as “the pile.”

Since his junior year, Greenfield-Central High School senior Onur Tunc said he’s received countless mailings from colleges and universities trying to market new programs and areas of study, urging him to consider coming to the campus for a visit. But as those brochures and packets have accumulated, many have ended up in a stack, he said, acting as constant reminders of the choices to come.

The options can sometimes be overwhelming, and for many students, it’s one-on-one interaction with a representative that makes one brochure rise to the top. Tunc and hundreds of other prospective college students turned out for the Leaders in Navigating Knowledge Education Expo on Wednesday in hopes of getting that face time with representatives from some of the same schools sending out those mailings.

The free event was available to all county residents, regardless of age, and was organized by LINK, a Hancock County nonprofit that provides resources and support to area residents seeking higher education opportunities.

Tunc appreciated the one-stop shopping of Wednesday’s event.

“It’s useful to get everyone in one place, because I have some pretty specific questions to ask,” said Tunc, who’s hoping to be admitted to an aviation program but still wants to winnow down his options.

Rian York, a Greenfield-Central High School senior, said he’s in a similar position. He knows he wants to attend a school with a Reserve Officers Training Corps program, but from there, his decision is still up in the air.

And helping students sort through those decisions was precisely the goal of the event, said Danielle Daugherty, executive director of LINK and the lead organizer for the expo, which ran from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Hancock Wellness Center.

“Sometimes school websites or brochures can’t answer everything for students,” Daugherty said. “But these college reps want to help students get a taste of what their schools are like, what life on campus will be like.”

Debra Weber, the mother of a senior at New Palestine High School, came to the event with her daughter to attend a workshop led by Amy Sosnowski, a college admissions and financial aid specialist who ran families through the best approaches to writing scholarship essays.

Weber, who’s already sent a son through college, said the process was a little intimidating the first time through, but now she’s more familiar with the procedure.

Still, Weber said although her daughter, Emily, already has applied to the schools she’s interested in, the process is far from over.

“That’s just the start,” she said. “Now, it’s a matter of mapping out the next steps, writing scholarship essays and narrowing down our choices. It’s really useful to know what the people reading those essays are looking for.”

Wynne Haralovich, an admissions counselor who represented Indiana University Bloomington at the event, said she fielded dozens of questions from prospective students, some of whom have already been admitted but still have questions lingering.

“There are a lot of students who come up to me with just a question or two, then that turns into a dozen more questions,” Haralovich said. “There’s just a lot to consider.”

Though the event is only in its second year, Daugherty said she plans for it to continue growing. Representatives from 54 different organizations came out for this year’s event — a significant jump from the 30 who represented area programs the previous year, she said.

“There are options available for everyone,” she said. “I feel like this is something the community is embracing.”

No matter what point students are at in that decision-making process, Daugherty said she hopes the event cleared up any confusion and made the process a little easier to approach.

“There’s no one place of origin or a magic guide to help people navigate all these choices,” Daugherty said.

“Each person is unique in what they’re looking for and what they want to do, so I hope they’ve left here with the resources they need to go forward.”

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or