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Making the Most of the College Fair

College Fairs are outstanding opportunities to learn by talking to real people from a wide range of schools.  Many colleges and universities participate in college fairs sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling and other groups. These events are generally held at a local school, hotel, or conference center. There are also some virtual fairs. College Fairs are a quick and low-cost way (often free) way to check out many schools (on the same day) and meet admissions representatives without traveling far from home.

Come Prepared!

Take advantage of the college fair opportunities by being prepared—take a list of questions and a notebook with you. Consider making some cards or labels (with your name, address, phone number, and email address) to give to the representatives who will probably ask you to sign in so they can contact you later.  Make sure to use the designated email address you plan to use when you apply to college! 

Do Your Research

Before the fair, find out which colleges will be there. Do some preliminary investigation on your own and/or with your counselor to see which colleges and universities may be of potential interest. If a school is of particular interest, consider trying to set up an appointment with an admissions representative for the day of the fair.

Pick Up A Directory & Make A Game Plan

When you arrive at the College Fair, pick up a directory. You may be able to do this online in advance of the fair. The directory may contain a list of all the participating colleges along with their booth locations as well as a schedule of information sessions. Decide on a game plan with the goal of effectively managing your time. Identify the schools you plan to visit and note their locations.

Execute Your Game Plan

Take brochures from colleges of interest. Attend information sessions as time permits.  Make notes about the colleges you speak with and ask for a business card from the admissions representative. Some students like to use a voice recorder (many cell phones have them) to take notes. If you are serious about a particular college, stay in touch with the representative. After the college fair, when appropriate, send people you met with an email or a hand-written thank you note.

Demonstrate Interest By Signing In

Often when a student attends a college fair and signs up to be on a mailing list or speaks with an admissions representative, it gets logged in the admissions database as “demonstrated interest”.  Since many colleges are concerned about yield, and favor applicants with “demonstrated interest”, taking the time to sign up can actually improve the likelihood of admission.

Ask Questions

Here are some ideas for questions to ask:

  • What are the college’s strengths?  Tell me about certain areas of study.

  • What is the school’s teaching philosophy?

  • What majors are most popular?

  • What is its policy for AP, IB, and dual-enrollment credits?

  • How can I connect with current students who live in my area to ask them questions about the college?

  • What are the admissions requirements?

  • What kinds of scholarships and other financial aid are available?

  • What do the school’s graduates go on to do?

Author: Lynn Radlauer Lubell is the Publisher of InLikeMe.com, and the Founder of Admission By Design, a College Consulting practice based in Boca Raton, Florida.

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