Bill Woodson, Ph.D.
Bill Woodson, Ph.D.

By Bill Woodson, Ph.D.

The process of selecting a college can be intimidating. To help lessen the guesswork for local high school students, New College recently joined a collaborative effort called Choosing the College That’s Right for You (CCR4U).

During three panel-style discussions in November and December, leaders from four area colleges and universities—New College of Florida (NCF), the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM), Ringling College of Art + Design (RCAD) and State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota (SCF)—teamed up to connect with more than 100 Sarasota-Manatee high school students for “real talk” about college searching.

The first of the three panels was hosted by Sarasota’s Booker High School on November 19, under the sponsorship of Mr. Lem Andrews (college and career counselor), and also included Suncoast Technical College (STC). The panel focused on clarifying the terminology and issues that graduating seniors and transfer students must navigate when choosing options for obtaining a four-year degree.

The group addressed questions like, “What’s the difference between public and private colleges?” (answer: tuition costs are one major difference); and “What’s the difference between a college and a university?” (answer: while universities are often larger, and some colleges are focused on two-year associate degrees, there are universities that are quite small, and some colleges offer four-year undergraduate degrees and even graduate degrees).

A number of local youth leadership and scholarship programs joined forces to support the promotion of the panels. UnidosNow, an organization led by Luz Corcuera that focuses on the education and mentorship of Hispanic youth, served as the lead sponsor of the December 3 panel. The A. Jean Battie Scholarship Fund and the Sarasota YMCA Achievers, led by Henry Battie and Jone Williams, respectively, jointly served as lead sponsors for the third panel on December 5. More than 60 unique logons were recorded for the Booker High School event alone, and the three events together saw upwards of 110 registered participants.

Representing the four schools were Trevor Harvey, academic student success advisor for SCF; Corey Posey, diversity, equity and inclusion officer at USFSM; Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez, associate dean of students for diversity and inclusion, and director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at RCAD; and myself, the dean of outreach and chief diversity officer for NCF. For the Booker presentation, Trenton Davis, outreach coordinator, represented STC.

While the panelists focused on demystifying the differences between types of colleges, and shared stories about their own college experiences, they also promoted the distinctive features and strengths of their specific programs.

SCF promoted its small class sizes and low cost per credit. It was noted that many RCAD, NCF and USF graduates began their college careers at SCF, earning an associate’s degree before going on to earn a four-year degree. RCAD promoted its world-class, top-ranked animation and motion design programs. USF highlighted its multiple campuses, its status as a top-tier research university, and its extensive offerings in the health sciences. NCF emphasized its small class size, all-honors college status, and strengths as a classic four-year public liberal arts college (with one of the highest proportions of future master’s and doctoral degree seekers of any school in the country, and graduates that go on to a wide variety of rewarding careers).

As members of the Cross College Alliance (CCA), the four Sarasota-Manatee area colleges all offer cross-registration, allowing students at any CCA school to sample classes from the other three at no additional cost. And all of the representatives pledged their availability to provide counsel and support to local area students, no matter which college they choose to attend.

Ultimately, the panels served to help guide high school students as they navigate their path to higher education. And that path just may lead them to a college in their hometown.

Bill Woodson, Ph.D., is the dean of outreach and chief diversity officer at New College.

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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