As spring sets in, so does anxiety for many high school seniors touring colleges across the United States - especially those who might not see college as a viable path. At Ohio State, it was exactly those students - from Ohio's cities and rural towns - who took part in the "Day in The Life of a Buckeye" on Wednesday.
The program, started by Ohio State student DaVonti' Haynes, targets students who might not have had the opportunity to visit a college campus otherwise. Each high schooler is paired with a current university student, typically someone with a similar background, and they spend the day following them to classes, getting a taste for the college experience.
Haynes says he was motivated by a similar program he experienced as a high school senior in Cleveland.
"Personally, it was more of an eye opener," Haynes says. "It allowed you to see more of what the collegiate experience looked like. And also to see yourself on that campus and to see people who look like you there."
The aim isn't specifically to convince students to attend Ohio State, but rather that they simply consider higher education in general.
When the program started, Haynes says there were only 65 high school students. This year, 400 students attended Day In The Life from high schools across the state.
Haynes says the majority of these students would be the first in their families to attend college. And according to a survey the students completed, the vast majority said when selecting a school their main priority is the financial aid package.
Seventeen-year-old Raenesha Benson from Cincinnati was already wearing a Buckeye shirt by Wednesday. She says she really likes Ohio State, but at the end of the day, she says she'll take whichever school offers a better deal.
"I don't want to break my parents' pockets," Benson says. "I'm going to do as much as I can to get scholarships and do what I can to make them happy as well as me."
Benson's guide for the day was senior Keyauna Ramos. She actually came to Ohio State from New York City, and because she pays out-of-state tuition, she'll have around $62,000 in debt when she graduates.
Ramos says she encourages prospective students to think about spending a few semesters at a community college before transferring to a four-year school.
"Definitely it is a significant difference, and it helps people. It saves money and it definitely minimizes that student debt," Ramos says.
Austin Ward, a freshman at Ohio State, is showing 17-year-old Nevan Yates around the campus. Both are from Vinton County in the southern Appalachian region of Ohio - in fact, they know each other from high school.
Where he's from, Ward says, people tend to stay close to home - and most kids don't know about opportunities in the cities.
"I think southern Ohio, and the Appalachian region of the U.S. especially, people tend to stay there after they go through high school and tend to find a job where they grew up and know everybody," Ward says. "And there's nothing wrong with that, but it's good to give students from that area an opportunity to see what it's like. You can go elsewhere."
Yates says for him adjusting to life in a big city will be a challenge.
"I think getting homesick is probably the biggest fear. [In] Vinton County, you don't really go out a whole lot," Yates says. "You kind of just stay around and just hang out with your family and friends."