SARATOGA SPRINGS Students from three Adirondack high schools preparing to enter their senior year spent three days recently on the campus of Skidmore College. They were among a diverse group of 50 CFES Scholars from New York State and Connecticut getting a feel for what college is like, with personal instruction from admissions professionals about improving their chances for admission and financial aid. The July 18-20 event, hosted by Skidmore but including representatives from eight other colleges, was titled CFES College Exploration at Skidmore. It was sponsored and coordinated by College For Every Student (CFES), a Cornwall, Vermont-based nonprofit organization that encourages and prepares students from rural and urban schools to attend college and obtain the lifelong advantages of a college education. The CFES Scholars from the Adirondacks represented three schools Ayla Homer and Morgan Wilson from Johnsburg Central; Caleb Harvish from Moriah Central; and Kristen Hotaling, Alexis McVicker, Briana Reynolds, and Ben Rowe from Willsboro Central. College Exploration packed academic, social, and cultural experiences into an extended weekend. Arriving by bus and train, youngsters with diverse backgrounds worked through projects together and enjoyed social events such as an evening barbecue, an ice cream social, and films with follow-up discussion. On Saturday morning they attended classes in business and sociology taught by Skidmore professors. Later, in small groups each assisted by volunteer Skidmore undergraduates, they competed in a scavenger hunt designed to acquaint the high schoolers with the amenities of a college campus, from the bookstore to the indoor pool, workout room, and basketball court, to the science building and campus post office. A college is a community, said CFES President Rick Dalton. This experience exposes our Scholars to what its like to be part of such a community the friendships involved, the relationships, and cultural and learning opportunities at their disposal. The primary focus was on mentor group sessions led by the college admissions professionals. With their senior year approaching, the Scholars all of whom have participated in CFES-sponsored programs in their high schools will be applying to colleges in a matter of months. The college counselors representing Middlebury, Bucknell, Hartwick, Gettysburg, and Skidmore colleges, as well as Colgate and Drexel universities provided insight into what they look for in applications and how students can best present themselves on paper. Its not all academic, they pointed out. Colleges try to develop a campus culture that is rich, said Donna Johnson of Hartwick. Its part of providing education. Students read and critiqued real college application essays, while Darryl Jones of Gettysburg explained, Its not about the content. Its about how the student communicates, as well as the quality of the writing and spelling, grammar and punctuation. Other sessions focused on college financing, particularly for low-income students, and on ways to save on the cost of multiple applications. The CFES approach to raising academic achievement and aspirations embraces three core practices Pathways to College, Mentoring, and Leadership through Service. CFES President Dalton explained that the College Exploration weekend promoted all three: Pathways, by virtue of bringing the lively group of high schoolers to the Skidmore campus and providing firsthand instruction about obtaining entry to college; Mentoring, because of the warm, personal attentions of the college representatives; and Leadership, because, Dalton said, Weve made it clear to the students that we need them to take these skills and experiences back home and use them to help other students. Founded in 1991, CFES works in 120 K-12 schools in 20 states, partnered with 210 colleges and universities, to help under-served students gain access to and succeed in college.