Aaron Farr of Gorham, right, talks to Westbrook High School students about financial aid at Yale University, which he attends. While the college is perceived as expensive, Farr said, Yale scholarships enable some students to affordably attend and even graduate with less debt than a student at a public university. Chance Viles / American Journal

WESTBROOK — For students who aren’t sure about what schools or jobs to apply to after college, Nicole Sturgis is their go-to resource.

As Westbrook High School’s aspirations counselor, Sturgis helps students look ahead, past high school, as early as their freshman year. Whether a student is thinking about joining the military, attending college or going right into the workforce, Sturgis can help them plan that next step.

“This is a one stop shop for help with after school life,” Sturgis said. “We even help with figuring out financial aid. There is a lot of money out there and people don’t tap into it, and I want parents to know that I am here as a resource.”

Sturgis holds seminars for students with companies like WEX Inc., which sent employees to speak with students.

At her a recent seminar, students from Yale University talked to the high schoolers about applying to selective colleges.

Aaron Farr, a Gorham resident and a student at Yale, along with a few of his college friends, explained to interested students what colleges like Yale look for in applicants.

“It isn’t always a perfect SAT score,” Farr said. “Schools like Yale really want to know what you do in your community with the resources you have. They don’t expect someone like me, from a public school in Gorham, to have the same experience as someone from a private high school that costs tens of thousands, but it was seeing my work with clubs and things that got me accepted.”

In attendance were students who were interested in Yale or another selective school. Before any seminar, Sturgis sends notifications to all of the students, who sign up based on their interests.

“This was a help in learning about more options to improve my path,” said Westbrook sophomore Colin Allen.

Allen, who excels in math and science courses, was particularly interested in the breadth of subjects provided by Yale and other universities.

“Those of you who are good at math or science, you will find that at Yale (or other universities) has a shopping period for classes,” Farr said. “I went in majoring in engineering, but now I am studying economics, but there is a lot of classes and paths based on those subjects you would never have expected.”

Whether students wanted to specifically apply to Yale or not, Sturgis noted that the important thing is thinking about what you want to do after high school early on.

“Knowing what you want will help shape your path in the future and you can begin to work towards that now,” Sturgis said.

Sturgis emphasizes that college is not the only path she advocates and that students and parents are all welcome to reach out to her for more information.

“There are a lot of barriers out there, but also a lot of ways to overcome them, and exploring that is part of what we do here with aspirations counseling,” she said.

Nicole Sturgis, left, listens to Yale sophomore Faias Rahman describe the enrollment period for classes, where students can test out a number of courses before their schedule is set. Chance Viles / American Journal

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