By Lauren Horn

Why is it impor­tant to go to col­lege? How dif­fi­cult is the first year? Do you have a curfew?

These were among the ques­tions on the minds of 160 eighth-​​graders on a field trip to North­eastern Uni­ver­sity last Wednesday for Early Col­lege Aware­ness Day, a pro­gram orga­nized by the Center for STEM Edu­ca­tion. The middle-​​school stu­dents attend Orchard Gar­dens K-​​8 School and the Curley K-​​8 School, Northeastern’s partner schools through Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s Step Up initiative.

More than 30 mem­bers of the North­eastern com­mu­nity vol­un­teered for the event, which focused on preparing eighth-​​grade stu­dents for both high-​​school and col­lege life.

Alfred Kry­ollos, a sopho­more bio­chem­istry and the­ater major, said he vol­un­teered “because I wish as a kid I had someone closer to my age to explain how things really were and hear real life expe­ri­ences and solu­tions. It’s much easier making a deci­sion when you have someone who gets you.”

North­eastern stu­dents and fac­ulty answered ques­tions as part of panel dis­cus­sions and led campus tours, which included a glimpse of an Inter­na­tional Vil­lage dorm room. Mar­ilyn Minus, assis­tant pro­fessor of mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering, gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on how she chose her major and picked a career path.

John Tobin, vice pres­i­dent for city and com­mu­nity affairs, Richard Harris, assis­tant dean and director of mul­ti­cul­tural engi­neering pro­grams in the Col­lege of Engi­neering, and Christos Zahopoulos and Claire Duggan, of the Center for STEM Edu­ca­tion, also addressed the students.

At the end of the day, Sport in Society, a North­eastern research center, set up sports and games for the teens to play in the Cabot Phys­ical Edu­ca­tion Center.

Emily Nolan, a sopho­more psy­chology major who is cur­rently on co-​​op with Sport in Society, empha­sized a main theme of the day: using high school to try new activ­i­ties and classes. “I rec­om­mend you chal­lenge your­self in high-​​school classes, because even if you’re not sure you can do it, it will lead to big bonus points when you apply for col­lege,” she told the stu­dents. “Also, try dif­ferent things and you’ll figure out what you like. I took sign lan­guage and edu­ca­tion classes before I dis­cov­ered that I really liked psychology.”

Jonathan Lopez, an eighth-​​grade stu­dent at the Curley K-​​8, said the best part of the day was meeting all of the people who work and go to school at North­eastern. “They told me to try your best in school and go to col­lege, and don’t worry about the money as much because there is help for that,” he said.

I was not thinking about going to col­lege, but now I am,” he added. “I like that you can take any classes you want, you get a lot more freedom than middle school.”