It's not only top high school athletes who get hard sells from college recruiters.
Twenty top high school science students from across Minnesota were invited Thursday to a St. Scholastica open house to get a creative sales pitch to enroll there.
For the students, it was a chance to be possibly the first group of high schoolers in the state to use a DNA analyzer to sequence their genes.
"We know there's another DNA machine at the University of Minnesota in the cities," Eric Berg, St. Scholastica's director of freshman admissions, told the students. "But we believe that's reserved for professorial research."
For St. Scholastica, it was a chance to talk about the college's biology major and focus in genetics, to show off how easy its high-tech equipment is to use and ultimately to attract the students to study at CSS.
"The number of students going into biology isn't that high right now," Berg said.
Most open houses, Berg said, are open to several hundred students and don't involve much in-depth faculty interaction.
But Berg said St. Scholastica wanted to do something different for its biology recruits.
Six weeks ago, Berg and the admissions department sent letters to high school science teachers in St. Scholastica's primary recruiting areas. The teachers were asked to select the best students who also were interested in genetics and apply on a first-come, first-served basis.
The response, Berg said, was better than recruiters had hoped, with a waiting list of more than 40 students.
Berg said those students on the waiting list eventually will be able to come to St. Scholastica for a similar open house.
Thursday's students scraped the inside of their cheeks to obtain the cells, which they later used to isolate their DNA.
"It's pretty straightforward to do," Douglas Walton, chairman of the biology department, told the students. "It's like making macaroni and cheese, really."
A machine valued at about $80,000 later analyzed their DNA. Two officers from the Duluth police department told the students about the importance of correctly collecting genetic evidence from a crime scene.
Steve Grinnell, a 1994 St. Scholastica graduate who is now an instructor at the Mayo Clinic's Cytogenetic Technology Program, also told the students that genetic analysts are in high demand, with far more job openings than there are jobs in the field.
The program at Mayo, which he said he helped build only a few years ago, trains students in the field, with graduates earning a certificate to do lab work.
"It's not a guaranteed job," he said, "but everyone who has earned a certificate works at the lab now."
Grinnell said Mayo's cytogenetic laboratory is able to identify chromosomal abnormalities that might indicate a chronic disease or a genetic cancer. In some cases, identifying the abnormalities allows for better treatment.
"If it's cancer," Grinnell said, "there are a lot of treatments driven by what chromosomal abnormalities they have."
Because of privacy concerns, the students weren't allowed to know whose DNA was whose.
The pitch to the students seemed to work, with many saying they'd like to come back to Scholastica.
Dana Rude, a junior at West Central Area High School in Barrett, said she has been interested in genetics for a while, adding, "This has been a great opportunity."