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Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant Report: Episcopal School of Baton Rouge

Wednesday, January 25, 2017  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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Better Together: Public and Independent Schools Collaborate on a College Fair


By Justin Fenske, Director of College Counseling


There are many talented and bright young students throughout the state of Louisiana. Yet, it is costly, if not impossible, for most colleges and universities to recruit many of these strong and diverse students. For these reasons, the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge sought a collaboration with schools across Louisiana to bring diverse, high-achieving students and selective colleges together at a spring college fair. With the help of the Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant, a successful fair was launched in March of 2016. More than 40 colleges and universities participated in the fair, which was attended by more than 400 students and parents from partner high schools. Collaborations such as this can potentially help other schools in similar “fly-over” territories across the country to help connect students and the selective colleges that would love to have them.


Research shows that college fairs increase admission and retention. Roderick, Coca, and Nagaoka (2013) showed that students who attended a fair were likely to apply and get accepted into college. However, getting accepted into a university is just the beginning of the process; many students drop out of college. A study by Goenner, Harris, and Pauls (2013) revealed that students who attend college fairs are less likely to drop out of college than students who visited college campuses or attended college weekends. The overall length of time students are enrolled in college increases by 33% for college fair participants, compared to 6.5% for students that visit the campus prior to enrolling, and 18% for students who were participants of Welcome Weekend.

Research by Cappex (2013) also revealed that spring of junior year is the best time for students to attend a college fair. Because of their college fair experiences, 43% of students in the study changed their minds about which colleges to apply (Cappex). In the spring of their junior year, students have truly begun to think about their future. By the time other college fairs or visit opportunities are available to them in the senior year, many students have begun to finalize college lists and applications. Accordingly, the traditional, fall college fair is no longer timely for many seniors. For example, Columbia University accepts 45% of its freshman class through their Early Decision program. Similarly, the University of Pennsylvania takes 54% through Early Decision (Anderson). Students applying through Early Decision and Early Action are spending the fall of their senior year preparing applications rather than attending fairs and formulating college lists to pursue.

Episcopal School of Baton Rouge sought partnerships with schools in Lafayette, LA, and with the Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts (LSMSA), a public school located two hours to the north. In addition, the school found partners within the East Baton Rouge School District, which is a diverse, urban school district, as well as the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition, a community-based organization. The fair was held at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge due to its central location, and particularly its short distance from the city of New Orleans, a major city with an active airport. Colleges and universities already in New Orleans for other events found themselves able to simply add an additional day to accommodate the collaborative fair at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge.

The Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant was specifically used to foster the collaboration between schools by helping to pay for transportation for students from LSMSA. The grant was also used to pay for lunch for these students, removing any financial burden for students from the school who wished to attend. This fostered communication and collaboration with the college counselors at both schools as we worked together to coordinate the event. College counselors from Episcopal also visited the LSMSA in order to share ideas about college counseling and increase communication. While the funds helped launch this program, LSMSA is committed to funding this initiative in the future.

Episcopal School of Baton Rouge also partnered with the East Baton Rouge Public School District to identify high-achieving students across the district that were not exposed to opportunities to learn about colleges. The district is very diverse, but outside of the district’s magnet schools most of the high school students do not receive visits from college representatives. In addition to inviting students to attend the fair, the college counseling team from the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge was also given the opportunity to meet with school counselors from across the district to share some ways that have proven successful for preparing students to attend a fair and get the most out of it.  

Follow-up surveys were conducted with both students attending and college representatives who attended the fair. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Twenty-seven colleges responded to the survey. One hundred percent of respondents answered that they had met with high-quality students and engaged in high-quality conversations with those students. Additionally, all respondents answered that they would encourage their institution to participate in the fair again next year. When asked for additional feedback, one representative responded, “Everything was wonderful! It's so nice to have students from such great schools - it's hard for us to access students from places like [the Episcopal School of Acadiana] and [the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts].” Constructive criticism was limited, but mostly involved the facilities used for the fair, including parking and temperature of the room. All of these comments will be addressed when planning the 2017 event.

One hundred and eight students responded to the follow-up survey, and their responses were similarly positive. Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported that the fair had caused them to change their minds about the colleges to which they would apply. Ninety-three percent of students learned about a new college or university that they were previously unfamiliar with. These were the primary goals for the collaborative fair, and the responses support that they were achieved. Eighty-seven percent of respondents also answered that they felt prepared to attend the fair, suggesting that the pre-fair collaboration and preparation by the schools was effective.

Episcopal School of Baton Rouge was very excited to be able to launch this collaborative fair, and the Stephen P. Robinson Grant helped make it a reality. The collaborative fair is achieving the goals it was intended to, and Episcopal School of Baton Rouge and its partners look forward to growing this event in the future.


Works Cited

 Anderson, Nick (2016). Columbia University: About 45 percent of freshmen admitted early. The Washington Post Grade Point Blog., LLC. (2013). Has the impact of college fairs changed? New Cappex study explores student views. Retrieved from

Goenner, C., Harris, M., and Pauls, K. (2013). Survival of the fittest: What do early behaviors tell us about student outcomes? Journal of College Student Development, 54(1), 43-61.

 Roderick, M., Coca, V., and Nagaoka, J. (2011). Potholes on the road to college: High school effects in shaping urban students’ participation in college application, four-year college enrollment, and college match. Sociology of Education, 84(3), 178–211.


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