Gracee Ott caught a glimpse ofher future at Viterbo University. Not all of the 16-year-old’s classmates know what they want to do yet when it comes to college and a career.
Ott, a junior at Onalaska High School, is different. She has wanted to be a nurse since she was young, and she wants to take classes and live in the very rooms and buildings she walked through last week during a campus tour of Viterbo.
“I’m coming here,” she said. “I’ve already decided.”
This is the second year Onalaska public school officials have organized college visits for 11th-grade students, trying to get the ball rolling for students who need to prepare for life after graduation.
The high school dedicated a half-day earlier this month to service learning for all grades, sending juniors to Viterbo, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Western Technical College.
The school used to conduct campus visits with 10th-graders, but the trips seem to make more of an impact on juniors, high school counselor Dean Tarasewicz said. Many start taking a serious look beyond the high school horizon in the spring with college entry exams.
“This is something that really captivates the students,” Tarasewicz said. “When we did it with sophomores, they weren’t quite at that point.”
Jake Shapiro, 16, hasn’t applied to colleges or taken entrance exams yet, but he’s thinking about going to a smaller, liberal arts college such as Viterbo.
“It looks good so far,” he said, following his tour group into a gymnasium.
Teacher chaperone Tim Hoehn said most of the OHS students who walked through Viterbo last week probably are like Shapiro — still trying to nail down exactly what they want to do once they flip the tassel on their mortar boards.
“The rest of their life is a big thing,” Hoehn said. “Most of them probably have spent a lot of time thinking about it.”
Kori Melby, 16, has no idea what she wants for a career, but she knows she wants to go to college.
Seeing Viterbo was an interesting opportunity to look ahead and see how different college will be from the familiar halls of OHS, Melby said.
“To see what the college life will be like,” Melby said.
The campus tours give students an idea of what to expect when they start visiting colleges they’re serious about attending, Tarasewicz said.
Students can get an idea of what to look for, what to expect from tour guides and what questions to ask.
The experience seemed to pay off for last year’s juniors, Tarasewicz said.
“There was really a big cool factor,” Tarasewicz said. “This was kind of their ‘aha’ moment.”