Choosing a college is a major decision for high school students and their families.

There are many factors to take into consideration when evaluating all the choices.

A large, sprawling university campus in a big city or a small, liberal arts school where classes are within a few minutes walking distance.

On-campus living or commuting and online classes.

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An expensive, private college or a public university with cheaper tuition.

A two-year program or a four-year program.

Last Wednesday, Seymour High School’s guidance department organized and sponsored the annual Jackson-Jennings College Fair and invited students from all area high schools to participate.

The fair served as a way for students and parents to collect a lot of information about the many different college options available and to ask important questions regarding admissions, financial aid, classes, housing and student life.

Around 325 people attended the event including 225 students and 100 parents coming from Seymour, Brownstown, Trinity, Crothersville and Jennings County said SHS guidance counselor Nikki Storey.

A total of 44 colleges were represented at the fair this year; most from Indiana but some from Kentucky and Ohio too. Three branches of the military also set up booths — the army, marines and national guard — to provide information to students about how serving the country can help pay for college.

Storey said the fair is an excellent resource for students and parents as they begin the college selection process.

“Representatives are able to give immediate feedback and answer specific questions or concerns,” she said.

Often, families do not have the time or money to visit all of the campuses students are interested in.

“This is a great way to visit many schools in one place,” Storey said.

Not only are students able to get information they need on their top choices and help narrow the list of possible options, they may find new options they had not yet considered, she added.

Besides the college fair, parents could also attend a financial aid presentation beforehand led by a financial aid expert from Hanover College.

That meeting was exceptionally important said parent Cheryl Fourman, because of the earlier deadline this year for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA filing period begins Oct. 1 and ends in March.

“There’s a benefit to doing it earlier,” Fourman said.

She attended the college fair with her son, Matt Fourman, a senior at Seymour High School.

Although deciding on a college and planning for the future can be overwhelming, it’s also something Fourman said he’s excited to finally be doing.

“It’s what I’ve been waiting for since I started high school,” he said.

“He may be ready, but I’m not sure I am,” Cheryl Fourman added.

Matt said he wants to study criminal justice in college so the first question he asked admissions counselors at the fair was if their school offered the field as a major.

He also asked about campus life and what things he could get involved in including sports and student organizations.

Another major factor in choosing a college is what kind of scholarships or financial aid is offered.

Fourman said he is hoping to get some scholarship money to help pay his way.

“I’m really interested in the University of Indianapolis and I’ve looked at Indiana State some too,” he said.

But he and friend, senior Alex Franklin also were open to talking to representatives from other schools including St. Joseph’s College.

Franklin is planning on studying education to become a teacher.

“I think it’s good to look around and talk to some of the colleges you haven’t heard of or don’t know much about,” he said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.