TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Area high school students are already gearing up for the next stage of their lives.
About a thousand students met with representatives from more than 100 colleges, universities, trade schools and the armed services at the 29th Annual
College and Career Day at the Kansas ExpoCentre Thursday.
"I'm looking for a career in journalism. I'm looking at KU is one of the top [schools]," Justin Bibler, a junior at Washburn Rural High School, said.
Amber McCown, a junior at McClouth High School said she was looking at colleges in California that would fit her academic and extracurricular ambitions.
"I wanted to be a marine biologist so I'm just hoping I could find more colleges that have softball for me to play," she said.
Despite a less than rosy job market, especially for college graduates, students said they wanted to pursue career paths that fit their passion, not the economic picture.
"I haven't thought about any other options, college is the number one," Bibler said.
The Associated Press reported in April that 53.6 percent of college graduates under the age of 25, with bachelor degree, were either unemployed or underemployed and often working in low wage jobs.
The few technical colleges at the fair tried appeal with the economies of a certificate or 2-year degree.
"We got students that are leaving after one year, and they're making comparable salaries to those at a four year school. Economically it makes great sense," Wade Moss, an admissions counselor at North Central Kansas Technical College, said.
Still students gravitated to the tables of the big four-year colleges.
"I've always wanted to be a marine biologist, so I just kind of wanted to pursue my dream," McCown said, adding that she wasn't worried about job prospects or the burden of college loans.
"If it doesn't work out, I'm sure I can figure something out," she said.
Organizers say whether a student is headed for higher education or unsure where they want to go, coming to the fair is a first step .
"We are promoting to all of our students that education doesn't end when they are graduating high school," Rosanne Haberman, Coordinator of Guidance and Counseling for Topeka Public Schools, said.
"Whether they're college bound or not, just great to begin that conversation," she said.
This year's fair had the largest participation ever from area schools - students from 10 school districts from northeast Kansas attended.