WILLMAR -- It's not too late to apply to attend Ridgewater College this fall. But with classes starting Aug. 24, there's no time to waste either.
Ridgewater officials are encouraging prospective students to get their paperwork started as quickly as possible.
This week, the college's admissions office held a new event, Walk-In Wednesday, on the Willmar campus for students still considering taking classes at Ridgewater this fall.
Because some people have trouble coming in during the day, the event was scheduled for 6 p.m.
"We wanted to give people the opportunity to come in the evening if that works better," said Sally Kerfeld, the school's admissions director. About 30 people attended, including prospective students and some parents.
The school will work with students at any time, but the goal is to get the registration process completed well before it's time to start school, Kerfeld said.
"We really want them to get the ball rolling," she said after the event. "The longer they wait, the more stressful it is. ... I think there's a comfort in having it done."
Those at the event were able to fill out applications and pay their $20 processing fees. They could pick up course catalogs and information about financial aid and housing.
Admissions representatives Bethany Jacobson and Leah Kadelbach went over the basics of registration and financial aid. Matt Gustafson of the counseling office said his office offers guidance on career choices and coaching on life skills.
Ridgewater is an open admission school, open to anyone who has a high school diploma or GED. Some individual programs may have other requirements or have waiting lists.
After the presentation, the counseling and admissions representatives spoke informally with anyone who had questions.
The prospective students at the meeting were a diverse group.
Kristine Sommers, 18, and her mother Brenda, of New London, spoke with Kerfeld and got Kristine's registration started. She just graduated from high school and plans to study accounting.
"It's so easy here," Brenda Sommers said. "They're just so nice."
Chris Helgeson, 18, of Sauk Rapids, already has a diploma from Central Lakes College in Staples as a diesel and heavy equipment technician.
He can't find a job, though. "They're looking for people with experience, not a rookie straight out of school," he said.
So Helgeson came to Ridgewater on Wednesday with his parents Mark and Julie Helgeson who farm near Sauk Rapids. "He's competing with a lot of people," his dad said.
Helgeson plans to study farm operations and management. His parents said they were pleased with his choice of Ridgewater and Willmar. "It seems like a nice town," Julie Helgeson said.
Jennifer Garberding, 32, of Willmar, laid off in January from her job as a receptionist, is planning to study "something medical."
She is hoping to get into the medical assistant program, but there's a waiting list. If she can't get in, she'll try another medical program. Going back to school is "a little scary," she said, but she's looking forward to it, too.
Louise Ashley, 52, of New London is exploring classes at Ridgewater and is currently out of work.
Ashley, too, is considering some type of medical training, possibly as a health information technician or health care administrative assistant. She believes employers could find that a good fit with her extensive office and accounting experience.
Because she already has a two-year accounting degree, she would be able to skip some general classes. "It'll shorten my time a bit," she said.