By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN
FHSU University Relations and Marketing
Haley Gomes wasn’t aware of an overnight visit to Fort Hays State University for high school students, sponsored by the Office of Admissions, when she was searching for colleges to attend four years ago.
But Gomes, who grew up in Highlands Ranch, Colo. – part of the Denver metropolitan area –
is more than a little excited to tell teenagers about her alma mater now.
An FHSU admissions counselor in charge of the southern portion of Colorado, Gomes joined other admissions personnel at a two-day event Sunday and Monday that brought Colorado students from their hometowns to campus for a day.
“This is a great way to check out a college for free,” Gomes said. “You don’t have to stay in a hotel, and you get to meet other kids from Colorado who you don’t already know. I wish I would have heard about this when I was in high school.”
Gomes actually learned about FHSU from someone in her city who had earned a master’s degree from Fort Hays State.
After checking it out, Gomes decided on Fort Hays State and graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. She successfully applied for a position in the admissions office and has been on the road recruiting potential Tigers ever since.
She and fellow admissions counselor Emi Kniffin, in charge of the northern part of Colorado, stayed overnight with the 42 students in Cunningham Hall Sunday, then helped lead activities all day Monday.
They both have been busy this semester, traveling the eastern Colorado circuit, attending college fairs and visiting high schools.
“After going to all the schools in Colorado, it’s fun to see some students here today,” said Kniffin, who accompanied students on campus tours, visiting their academic departments and other presentations and activities.
Kniffin moved to northwest Kansas with her fiancé in September. Dani Hartung, a former coworker of Kniffin’s at an area elementary school, had taken a job as admissions counselor at FHSU and told Kniffin about another opening.
Kniffin, who grew up in Wichita and graduated from Baker University in Baldwin City, didn’t know that much about Fort Hays State before she sought out the admissions job.
“I didn’t know anything about the programs here beforehand, but I found out what a great school Fort Hays State is,” she said. “I love advertising (FHSU) now. I love being able to help students figure out what’s right for them.”
Getting students to campus is key, said Jon Armstrong, interim director of admissions.
“Some of these students have heard of Fort Hays State through our admissions counselors, and this gives them the opportunity to come to visit campus,” he said. “It provides people an opportunity to see, in person, what Fort Hays State has to offer.”
Participants ranged from small schools such as Fowler, which has 175 students in grades 7-12, or Mitchell High in Colorado Springs – whose enrollment of 1,300 is larger than the city of Fowler’s entire population.
“I definitely want to go here,” said Ty Korngor, who is from Colorado Springs. “I really like the campus.”
Korngor, who graduated from Mitchell High School this semester, plans to major in marketing and hopes to be on campus at FHSU as early as spring semester 2019.
“They told me I could be really involved here like I was in high school, and I liked that,” said Korngor, who was active in organizations in high school, including yearbook, photography and student government.
Danielle Pruett from Fowler, in the southeast part of the state, was just as impressed with FHSU.
“I am involved with FFA in high school and do a lot of competitions,” said Pruett, who wants to major in agricultural business in college. “This whole experience exceeded what I ever thought it would be.”
Pruett said she decided to make the trip because she grew up in a small town and thought FHSU was smaller than some of the larger schools in Colorado.
“I like keeping it small,” she said, “and I am so glad I was able to come to this. I made a lot of friends here already, and I hope I get accepted to FHSU. I love it here.”
Pruett said she was hooked after the personal road trip but admitted she was already convinced she was serious about attending FHSU after Gomes’ presentation at her high school.
Touting all the benefits of attending Fort Hays State comes easy for her, Gomes said.
“Being from a large city and close to the mountains, it was a little bit of a culture shock right at first when I came here,” Gomes said. “But once you’re here, you get the chance to step out of your comfort zone, become more open minded about things to do in a smaller city.”
One benefit that gets students’ attention is tuition rates.
Students coming from states bordering Kansas are able to take advantage of the Contiguous States Resident Tuition Program. That rate is less than half of other non-resident students.
“My twin brother’s tuition at a community college in Colorado was more than mine here at Fort Hays State,” Gomes said. “It’s amazing.”
While affordability definitely is a plus, Gomes said there are so many other factors – specifically the wide variety of nationally acclaimed programs and state-of-the-art facilities – that make FHSU an easy sell to prospective students.
“You get a top-notch education here,” she said.
Another major feature, Gomes said, is the community connection.
“Once you get here and see the Hays community, the people of Hays are really a big drawing card, too,” she said. “Everyone has such a good heart. Caring and hard-working is engrained into everywhere you go. It’s the true Midwestern spirit; they’re going to be there for you.”
The Colorado road trip was the last of its kind this semester for the admissions office. Students from Wichita, southwest Kansas and eastern Kansas came to campus on similar bus trips. For more information about the road trips or other admissions activities, visit www.fhsu.edu/admissions.