Attending college fairs are an important part of the college planning process. With large numbers of colleges and universities gathered under one roof, college fairs are an excellent opportunity to do some in-person research. Students get immediate feedback to their questions and schools will start to “come alive” for them as they talk with the admission reps at each booth. Another important reason for students to attend college fairs: Demonstrate Interest. Colleges want to know they are wanted. Most keep track of student contact at college fairs, high school visits, and campus visits. It can be expensive and time consuming to visit all the colleges and universities you are considering; college fairs give students the opportunity to visit many schools all in the span of an afternoon.
Photo via https://mcc.iavalley.edu
Additional reasons to attend college fairs:
Explore new options
You may discover a new college(s) that isn't on your radar until now.
Admission representatives are often referred to as admission counselors; go ahead – ask them any question you may have. Perhaps you are wondering if you should take AP Psych next year or another year of science instead. Ask them their opinion.
Narrow your list of possible options
You will be able to identify which schools you are likely to make the commitment to go visit in person and which ones you may end up deleting from consideration.
Find out about summer programs/opportunities
Many colleges now offer pre-college summer programs and experiences on their campus. They will have information at their booths about these programs.
Attend special information sessions
Sometimes a College Fair will feature an info session on a specialized topic like Test Prep, Financial Aid or Athlete Recruitment.
Practice your interview skills
Talking to college admission reps will help you when it comes time to interview. You will need to think of what questions you want to ask and then think "quick on your feet" to any questions asked of you in return.
Great preparation for the campus visits
If you can survive the College Fair – which is loud and somewhat overwhelming – the campus visit will be a piece of cake. You'll also already have practice for what questions to ask and have an initial feel for the college before you even step foot on campus.
Review the list of all the colleges that will be in attendance.
Make note of the Booth Number of those colleges on your College List. At the fair, you will be given a map showing the Booth Number. Before entering the Convention Hall, run a highlighter over the Booth Number of those colleges on your College List so that you know the location of the colleges you plan to visit this day.
Make learning about these schools your priority for this day.
Before the Fair
Register online for the fair and receive a barcode for easy onsite access to college representatives. Take a picture of the barcode with your phone or print and bring it to the fair as your electronic ID.
Ask the college representative to scan your barcode. This will allow the representative to follow up with you directly—and quickly. Visiting their booth at a college fair is one of the elements of showing demonstrated interest to the admissions officer that will ultimately review your application.
Dress appropriately. Gentleman: Wear a favorite collared shirt, khaki pants, a belt and be clean shaven. Ladies: Wear a nice skirt or pants and a blouse or sweater.
Everyone should wear comfortable shoes, but no flip-flops. Your goal is to look comfortable and professional. Nice clothes have the potential to make the right impression. A college admissions officer can easily pick out serious students when they walk through the door.
INTRODUCE YOURSELF THEN MAKE YOUR QUESTIONS COUNT
Your goal is to have in-depth conversations with a few of the college reps on hand,
especially with the college reps from those schools on your College List.
Introduce yourself with a firm handshake and a brief introduction:
“Hi! My name is _________________ and I am a __________ (sophomore, junior) at
____________ High School in _____________ (name of your town if that is not obvious). As I have researched colleges, I have found that yours is one I’m really interested in. I’m wondering if you have a couple of minutes to answer a few questions?”
Examples of good questions:
Ask about the specific program/major you are interested in. For example, if you are interested in Electrical Engineering, ask college reps what sets their program apart from other colleges, or ask them to compare their Electrical Engineering program with one at another college that you’re considering.
What kind of student are you looking for?
Are there opportunities for internships? Do you have a co-op program? (A cooperative education is an academic program broken up with periods in which a student will be given an opportunity to work and get paid a salary in an industry related to their schooling. Most co-op programs are structured so that each term or semester of schooling is alternated with a term or semester of work.)
What is the campus atmosphere like at your school? What makes your campus special? What do students do in the evenings and weekends? What happens on weekends—are there things to do on campus or in town, or do most kids go home
What are the housing options for freshmen? Do many students live off campus?
Conclude your conversation with the college rep:
Before you leave the college table, look the rep straight in the eye and say:
“It was so nice to meet you and hear about [name of school]. Thank you for taking the time. I’m hoping to visit your campus sometime in the future. May I have your business card? I’d love to keep in touch.”
Not always, but often, the representative that is attending the college fair is the representative that will end up reading your application. Keep in touch with them; reach out with thoughtful, intelligent questions. That demonstrates interest.
Send a hand-written thank you note/email to the college representatives you met. This simple gesture can show admission officials you're serious about wanting to attend their college.
Here is an example of what to write, but make it your own so it does not sound “canned”:
Dear Ms. or Mr. ____________:
This just a note to thank you again for taking the time to talk with me about ______________ [name of college] when you were at the ____________________ College Fair [name of your town], because the rep has probably visited a lot of towns). I so enjoyed hearing about ____________________ (say something specific that you learned from your chat).
I am even more interested in ____________________ [name of college] and can’t wait to send in my application this fall [if you are a junior]. Please let me know if you are ever plan a visit to ______________ [name of your high school] or back in _____________ [name of town].
________________ [your name]
________________ [name of your high school]
Upcoming College Fairs
Orange County (CA) National College Fair
Anaheim Convention Center
800 W. Katella Avenue
Anaheim, CA 92802
Date: Sunday, April 24, 2022
Time: 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM (PDT)
Click Here to Register for this College Fair
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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.
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