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Fair aims to help students get help with college

| Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 12:46 a.m.

With the price of a college education continuing to soar, a scholarship could be the determining factor in school selection for a prospective student.

That's where the Pittsburgh Infinite Scholarship Fair comes into play.

The fair, which will be held Thursday at Barack Obama Academy of International Studies in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, is a unique opportunity in which qualified students can meet with college admissions representatives and get — on the spot — acceptance and school-sponsored scholarship offers.

“Some kids, hopefully a lot of kids, will leave with scholarships in hand,” said Melvin Steals, the Southwestern Pennsylvania regional sponsor of the event. “Kids can also get guarantees that if they maintain their current academic standing, they'll be accepted to a school.

“This could be a life-changing experience for the people who come through those doors on Thursday.”

The average college student will pay about $32,000 a year in tuition and expenses, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Last year, the non-profit national Infinite Scholars organization helped students get more than $240 million in scholarships, at 20 fairs nationwide.

Steals said students who want to attend should have a grade-point average of 2.8 or higher, and an ACT score of at least 21 or a SAT score of at least 1650.

Attendees are encouraged to bring multiple packets to give to colleges that include their grade point average, test scores, a resume, a 250-word essay about why they want to attend college, and two letters of recommendation. Steals said he expects about 1,000 students to attend the fair.

More than 20 colleges are expected to attend, according to the Rev. Mitch Nickols, another event organizer.

“What we've worked on this year, is to not only make sure there are schools from out of state, but also, make sure we increased the number of local schools,” Nickols said. “This year we'll have the likes of Penn State New Kensington, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne, CMU and Washington & Jefferson, to go along with St. Louis University, California University and others.

“Only some of them were there last year,” he said.

Nickols said Highlands, Valley and Plum high schools will send students to the event.

“The only incentive for us is that we want kids to have access to resources that allow them to go to school,” Nickols added. “Dr. Steals and his wife had their three children go to colleges. My two children went to college and work at major corporations in the city now.

“Our incentive is to help other people's kids, who maybe can't afford it, get a college education.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.

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