Post graduation food for thought served up to St. Francis HS seniors

This fall’s seniors at St. Francis High School were allowed a break from their routines Oct. 30 unlike any other class before them.

Each of the approximate 380 seniors in the prospective graduating Class of 2014 was instructed to make time that Wednesday for visiting the school’s media center, where they could double-check the credit totals in their transcripts along with searching and sifting through post-secondary options.

St. Francis senior Maria Zutz shares a laugh with guidance counselor Tammy Swarsky as they verify that Zutz is on track for graduation next spring.
St. Francis senior Maria Zutz shares a laugh with guidance counselor Tammy Swarsky as they verify that Zutz is on track for graduation next spring.

This Senior Day coincided with a week when all 31 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) institutions were accepting applications at no cost. The St. Francis seniors learned that a few select institutions on the list, including Normandale and Inver Hills community colleges and Metropolitan State University, never charge application fees.

The high school’s career and guidance counselors also provided application policies for the University of Minnesota’s campuses in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and elsewhere (which are separate from MnSCU) as well as information on nearly 20 private schools in the state.

Many of the seniors already had a jump on college applications before their special day Oct. 30. Then again, the high school officials allow students to use accounts for related purposes as early as ninth grade through the Naviance software program.

Dawn Abraham, career adviser at the high school, said seniors near the time of graduation will get the benefit of receiving a list of all post-secondary opportunities that they pursued while logged on to Naviance through their four years at St. Francis.

“We do a lot of college and career research with the students,” Abraham said during the Senior Day’s first hour.

“This is geared toward every one of our seniors,” guidance counselor Tammy Swarsky said of the event. “It is giving them an opportunity to look at various paths after graduation.”

Swarsky and other counselors, on the media center’s main level, helped the seniors in verifying their academic pace for graduation.

In the upper computer lab, the seniors could take time to find online applications for colleges that have drawn their interest. They could direct questions early in the morning to Laura Johnson, a visiting admissions counselor from Southwest Minnesota State University. Her region includes northern and central Minnesota, where St. Francis is basically on the southern edge, she said.

She was not advocating for her school over any others in the state, although she was glad to hear from the seniors when they recognized the college as one that offers post-secondary credits for some advanced math and language courses offered at St. Francis.

If a student asked, “‘Am I already part of that school?’” Johnson would reply, “‘Yeah, you’re already a Mustang,’” she said.

The high school also invited area military recruiters to speak about their branches of service with interested students.

“We give them a different avenue than traditional college,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Adam Poissant, from a regional office in Blaine that serves Anoka and Isanti counties. “What we are here to do is educate on the opportunities in the armed services.”