College fairs are a valuable resource for high school students and their parents. They offer a unique opportunity for students to explore a variety of colleges and universities in one location, gather information, ask questions, and even make connections with admission representatives while showcasing their genuine interest and professionalism.
What Are College Fairs?
College fairs are events where representatives from various colleges and universities gather to provide information to prospective students and their families. College fairs are often held in high schools, convention centers, or other large venues, and can be organized by schools, districts, or independent event companies. At these fairs, students will have opportunities to interact with admission officers and obtain school marketing materials. Some college fairs even offer workshops or information sessions.
Why College Fairs Matter
1. Explore a wide range of college options: College fairs bring together a diverse array of colleges and universities, allowing students to explore a variety of options, from small liberal arts colleges to large research universities across the country.
2. In-person interaction: College fairs offer a chance for students to have face-to-face conversations with admissions representatives. This direct interaction can help them gain a better understanding of what each institution has to offer and how well it aligns with their goals and interests.
3. Learn about unique programs: Many schools showcase unique programs, majors, and opportunities that students might not have encountered otherwise. College fairs are a great place to discover niche offerings and distinctive features of each institution.
4. Financial aid and scholarships: Students can inquire about financial aid, scholarships, and the cost of attendance at different colleges. Understanding the financial aspect of college is crucial, and talking to representatives can provide insight into the affordability of various options.
5. Demonstrate interest: Some colleges consider demonstrated interest when making admissions decisions. By attending a college fair, a student can show their genuine interest in a particular school, potentially giving them an edge in the application process.
NOTE: Students should sign in with each college of interest. Sometimes college fairs will use an app that allows a student to fill out their information ahead of time, and then offers a barcode for representatives to scan. Otherwise, many colleges ask students to fill out their information on a contact card. A student should use one constant email address for all their college interactions.
Upcoming College Fairs
To help students get started on their college fair journey, here are some links to upcoming college fairs:
1. National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC): NACAC hosts numerous college fairs, both in-person and virtual, throughout the United States. Their website provides a comprehensive list of upcoming events. NACAC College Fairs
2. University-Specific Events: Many colleges and universities host their own virtual and in-person events. Check the admission websites of schools you’re interested in for information about their upcoming information sessions.
3. Local High School Fairs: Keep an eye on announcements from your student’s high school or school district. They often organize college fairs or invite nearby colleges to provide information.
4. Art School Events: If you’re applying to art school, take note of National Portfolio Day, where you can meet art school representatives and get your portfolio reviewed before submitting it.
NOTE: Some college fairs are focused on a particular academic area or college type, such as STEM, visual and performing arts, Ivy League, or liberal arts. Others specialize in a state or region or a public university system.
College Fair Etiquette
1. Dress appropriately. Making a positive impression is important. Students should opt for business casual clothing that is neat, clean, and comfortable. They will feel more confident and be taken more seriously.
2. Prepare Questions. Before attending a college fair, students should research the institutions they are interested in. Then they should prepare a list of specific questions to ask representatives. This shows that they’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in their school. Be sure to ask questions that cannot be answered from the website. “Tell me about your XYZ major” is a good place to start. (Don’t ask if a certain program is “good.”) College fairs are a chance to learn some new information about different colleges.
3. Be Respectful. When engaging with representatives, students need to be courteous and respectful by waiting their turn, listening actively, and showing appreciation for the representative’s time and information. If you can, stand close to the table while the representative is speaking with other students. They may be answering a question that you are about to ask.
4. Practice Good Communication. When speaking with college representatives, students should make eye contact, speak clearly, and introduce themselves. Body language says a lot about someone. Students should maintain good posture, offer a firm handshake, and avoid chatting with friends or checking their phone while talking to representatives.
5. Stay Organized. Students should bring a notebook or use a note-taking app to jot down information. This will help you keep track of what you’ve learned and which colleges you want to follow up with.
6. Respect Personal Space. College fairs can get crowded, so students should be mindful of personal space and give others room to speak with representatives.
7. Network Professionally. Students may meet other students, alumni, or even current college students at these fairs. Networking is encouraged. Exchange contact information if needed for further discussions or information sharing.
8. Avoid Oversharing. While it’s important to express interests and goals, students should avoid oversharing personal information. Stick to questions related to academics, programs, and campus life.
9. Follow Up. After the college fair, students should follow up with the institutions they connected with. Sending thank-you emails expressing appreciation and interest in a school demonstrates commitment and manners.
10. Be Open-Minded. By keeping an open mind during interactions, students might discover other schools that are a great fit for them, even if they have a top choice in mind.
11. Parents: Your role should be to stay in the background and let the student speak to the representative. If you have questions, wait until your student is finished with their conversation.
12. Bring a bag. If attending a college fair in person, bring a tote bag to carry all the publicity material you will collect.
13. Arrive early and wear comfortable shoes. These events are often quite busy, and you’ll be on your feet for a few hours.
International College Counselors
No matter where your family is in the college admissions process, International College Counselors can help you with every aspect, including college admissions essays and college fair preparation. Call us at 954-414-9986 to discuss how we can support you and your family!