College fairs are a great way for high school students and their parents to meet with representatives from various colleges and universities around the country. This is often a student’s first contact with a college, and it is advantageous to make the most out of your college fair experience.
Here are some tips on attending a college fair:
Make a list. Before going to the fair, find out which colleges will be at the fair (a list may be posted on the fair’s website) and write down the names of 10-12 you want to learn about. Visit those representatives first. If you have extra time, check out some of the other booths. You may stumble onto a great college you hadn’t considered. Focus primarily on schools that are more than two hours from home. Colleges and universities that are closer can be visited in person.
Do research. Visit the websites of the colleges on your list and learn as much general information as possible. With this knowledge, you can ask more in-depth questions when you talk to college representatives.
Create a set of labels. Most colleges will have an inquiry form for you to fill out. This will place you on their mailing lists and also record that you visited the booth. If you bring along self-stick labels to place on the cards, you can save a lot of time. Include your contact information, e-mail address, birthday, high school graduation date, GPA, and areas of interest. Make sure your email address is appropriate.
Sign in. If there is no inquiry card, sign in at the school’s table. Students get extra points from a school for demonstrating interest. Signing in lets the college know that you attended an event and were interested to stop by. Use legible handwriting, the same spelling of your name that you use on the college application, and the same email address you plan to use for all college admissions correspondence. If not, the college will think you are another person and you may lose the “credit.”
Dress for success. Dress in a manner that suggests you are serious and taking the event seriously. It’s about putting one’s best foot forward and showing respect, enthusiasm, and interest. Clothes need to be neat, not as if one fell out of bed and into yesterday’s clothes.
Arrive early. You will be easier to remember if you are not the 300th student a representative meets.
Act like a professional. During the encounter, students want to be professional, engaging, positive and enthusiastic at all times. Smile. Look the representative in the eye. Introduce yourself. Avoid giving yes or no answers. Ask for the business card or the name of each admissions representative you meet.
Pass out your resume. Handing out your high school resume at college fairs will show college representatives that you are a go-getter. Your resume will allow the representatives to see what kind of a student you are and allow them to take it back to their college admissions office for review.
Ask thoughtful questions. To avoid being another face in the crowd, students should ask two or three specific questions that call attention to their specific interests about a particular college. Good questions include: “What is the personality of this college as you’ve experienced it? What kind of student is happy here? What are some of the best features of the school?” Stay away from questions with answers that can easily be found on the website or in the catalog. Also stay away from questions that can be answered “Yes” or “No.” Try to think like a journalist looking for answers. If others are waiting to talk to the rep, keep the conversation short. This is not the time to discuss your personal circumstances.
Stay organized. After the fair (or even before it) make a folder for each school that you are interested in. On the folder write down the date and location of the college fair, and the names and contact info of the representatives you met. Put any brochures or other printed materials you received into the folder. Toss out materials from colleges you’ve ruled out so you can focus on the colleges you’re interested in.
Do more research on the schools you like. Explore websites, contact the admission office and-or plan a campus visit. If you’re enthusiastic about the college, it may be time to visit in person.
Follow up. If you have an alumni interview or have more questions for the admissions office of a school, mention that you attended the college fair and remind them of something you spoke about in your conversation.
To find out when local college fairs will be held in your area, contact your high school counselor. To find out the dates for the national college fairs, visit nacacnet.org