High school juniors, seniors and college students milled around booths in Columbia College's Oak Pavilion on Friday, in search of a university to call home.

Columbia College's annual Transfer Day attracted almost 400 students from high schools from Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, such as Sonora High School senior Michael Levesque and junior Elena Clark, who had stopped at the California State University, Sonoma, booth to find out what programs the school offers.

Clark, who has a year before she'll start applying for schools, looked calmer than Levesque, who will start the process and write admission essays as soon as next month.

While Levesque has his mind set on a few places, he was disappointed by the number of colleges represented at the event.

"Not very many colleges around here," he said of the 20 or so booths in the gym.

But Clark, who is interested in studying performing arts, said Sonoma State and the Academy of Art College, San Francisco, might be the best places to apply.

What should she do to ensure matriculation? Levesque had an answer.

"Take your SATs now," he told his junior friend.

Bret Harte High School seniors Rose Johnson and Shannon Minnis have removed themselves from senior stress by deciding early to attend community colleges next year.

Both were dressed in slim jeans with thread shawls tied around their waists, so it was no surprise when Johnson said she hoped to study fashion design.

Both girls picked up pamphlets and catalogs at the Academy of Art booth, Stanislaus State University and other colleges they'll apply to in another two years.

"For now I'm planning on a junior college, and figure it out later," Minnis said.

University of California, Merced, had a booth set up, looking for students like Minnis and Johnson, who will need four-year college in 2005, when the newest U.C. campus will finally be accepting students.

"Right now it's a construction site," said U.C. Merced representative Lori Jones.