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Getting the Most Out of College Fairs

College Fairs might be the first introduction you have to the college you choose to attend. With so many colleges represented under one roof, attending college fairs will enable you to explore a wide range of colleges in a short amount of time. Having a plan prior to attending will make the experience more worthwhile.

Why Attend a College Fair?

· To expand or narrow your college list

· To show Demonstrated Interest especially to those schools who track it (Other ways to show demonstrated interest: request additional information from college; like and follow school’s social media; interview with school; use your Top-Secret Weapon a.k.a. a handwritten thank you note!)

· To ask questions about the admissions process and requirements for your field of study

· To make a connection with the representative from each college booth you visit (They might be the first person to view your application so make a good impression.)

· To generate content for the school’s “Why Us” essay (Many schools will require a supplemental essay asking some version of “Why would you like to attend our school?” You can ask the rep specific questions which can actually help you write your essay.)

Once you have decided to attend a College Fair, find out what schools will be represented and make a list of those that you for sure want to visit. Choose at least two schools to visit that you have not heard of before or know very little about. (These schools are usually the ones with the short lines. But you never know if the school might be a great fit.)

The next step is to prepare some general and specific questions to ask each school’s representative. There won’t be time to ask each school all your questions so prioritize your questions ahead of time. Questions you don’t get answered could be asked in follow-up emails or while touring campuses.

Possible Questions to Ask:

· What are the two coolest things about your campus?

· Are there separate deadlines for admission and scholarship applications?

· What do students do in their free time? (This will show you the school’s culture and campus activities provided.)

· Do many students live off campus?

· What do most graduates go on to do? (Additional degrees? Workforce?)

· I want to do (job/career field/ attend graduate school at x university) after college. Is there something that will help me pursue this at your school?

· What do students like most about your school?

· Biggest complaint?

· What kinds of students are happiest at your school?

· What academic programs are the most popular at your college?

· How would you describe the academic pressure and workload?

· Ask questions relevant to your intended major or specific situation. (health issues; tutoring needed; allergies….)

· What is your school most known for?

· Are there any certain specific requirements for admissions to the ____ program?

· Are certain majors more competitive to gain admissions to than others?

· Be prepared to talk about yourself and what you are looking for in a college

Just don’t ask questions that you could easily find from their website or that could be answered with a simple yes or no. Make sure to get the representative’s contact information.

Afterwards, sort through and organize the information gathered and any notes you took. An accordion type file works great. If you connected with several college reps that you spoke with and you feel they went above and beyond AND you are definitely interested in the school, then send them a thank-you email to let them know you’re interested in their school and ask any follow-up questions you have. When corresponding with colleges, keep it short, polite, and professional. (Emails are fine in this instance, but a hand-written note is appropriate too.)

From the information gathered at the College Fair, choose your top schools and schedule a campus visit. You will be on your way to finding the best fitting college!

A Parent Guide:

Since college research really needs to begin in 9th and 10th grade, and few students drive at this point, parents attend college fairs and should have a game plan as well. A College Fair is the place to learn more about the opportunities available and explore options your student is interested in. Be prepared with a bag for all the brochures collected. Sometimes these are provided, but often are not.

First rule: LET YOUR STUDENT TAKE THE LEAD. They are the ones going to college so allow them this opportunity to practice some “adulting” skills.

It is important to have a balanced list of questions to ask. Students should be the ones to ask their pertinent questions while parents tend to be the ones to ask financial aid, funding, employment placement rates, and other “financial type” questions.

At the fair, step back, listen, take notes and observe your student in action. Pay attention to the details and interesting comments from the admissions officer and take notes while your student is interacting with them. Observe how your student interacts with the rep and note anything you notice about how they appear to feel about each school. This can be valuable information in the future.

As a parent you might have more time to divide and conquer and explore more “lesser known” schools while your student waits in the long lines for their turn to visit with the “more popular” schools. Take advantage of this unique opportunity and widen your own college knowledge. You might just find a gem.

Afterwards, encourage your student to follow up with those schools in which they made a connection. Just don’t do it for them. Remember…Students take the lead.

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