When Ethan Martinez, a senior from Landstown High School in Virginia Beach, arrived at Old Dominion University's Scholars' Day on Feb. 22, he'd already decided to attend ODU in the fall. The annual event, which welcomed nearly 400 admitted students who have received merit-based scholarships and their guests, was just an opportunity for Martinez to get better acquainted with the campus he'll call home when he starts in the engineering program this fall.

"My sister is a senior at Virginia Tech," Martinez said. "I got in there, too, but I didn't consider it. ODU gave me money for my grades, and the education here is the same, if not better. I came here for an engineering open house earlier in the year and saw the labs, and everything was amazing. Plus, it's close to home and I'll graduate with a lot less debt than my sister will."

Martinez's mother, Amy, agrees.

"I've always wanted Ethan to go to ODU," she said. "After watching his sister struggle with debt and the lack of internships and jobs in Blacksburg, I know this is an equal, if not better, education with much better opportunities."

Don Stansberry, interim vice president for student engagement and enrollment services, knows the students who attend Scholars' Day are looking to take a "deeper dive into the academic experience" at ODU. "Today is our opportunity to showcase all of that and answer questions."

Scholars' Day features a student resource fair, an information session about the Perry Honors College, tours of campus and research labs, and time to connect with current students and faculty.

Unlike Ramirez, Rosa Rodriguez, a senior from Virginia Beach, came to Scholars' Day to make a final decision between ODU and Virginia Commonwealth University. She plans to study nursing, and both schools have appealing programs.

"I'm in the Health Sciences Academy at Bayside High School, and a lot of graduates from that program came to the ODU School of Nursing," she said. "They come back and tell us that even though it's close by, it's a really good program. They and got me interested in coming here, and when I submitted my application and got scholarship money, it was even better."

Rodriguez's family came along for her first visit to campus, including mother Sigmarie, a graduate of Norfolk State University, who sees ODU as a perfect balance of proximity, affordability and high-quality education.

"The scholarship ODU offered is a benefit," she said. "The less we have to pay out of pocket the better. We've heard great reviews on the nursing programs at both schools she's considering, but one is two hours away and one is 20 minutes away."

Stansberry is confident that ODU can provide the personalized academic rigor the students at Scholars' Day are looking for along with the support of the Monarch community.

"Here, we give them a menu of options, whether that's going in through the Perry Honors College or working directly with our faculty. Students can incorporate research into their learning as early as their freshman year and apply that knowledge," he said. "Plus, we're in a great metropolitan area to partner with the community. Students can launch right into internships and practical experiences, which is a unique advantage."

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