If you're a high school senior, junior or even sophomore, then fall is the season for college fairs. These events are the perfect opportunity for you and your parents to get acquainted with the college admissions process and gather information on universities that interest you. You'll also get a chance to meet with college representatives and ask questions in person.
In other words, it's a big deal. Showing up with a bunch of your friends after a sweaty basketball practice isn't the best strategy. Instead, here are some things you can do to gear up for your first college fair so you can get the most out of the experience and make a good impression.
Get the scoop on which schools will be there.
Stop by your school's counseling office or go online to see if the fair has a website that lists the colleges that will be in attendance. Having a list in advance allows you to highlight the schools you are most interested in meeting. Depending on the size of the fair, it could be overwhelming, so having a game plan will help ensure that you connect with your target schools.
Prepare your questions.
College fairs are a great opportunity to get some face time with college representatives, and in most cases, it's someone who works in the admissions office. Showing up with a list of thoughtful questions will make you stand out in a good way, and score you valuable intel on each school. Some smart questions to ask might include:
- Do students typically graduate in four years or less?
- What's the graduation rate?
- What qualities do you look for in applicants?
- Who teaches the bulk of the courses — professors or graduate students?
- What sorts of internship and study abroad opportunities do students have?
- What is the average class size at the school?
- What's the employment rate for recent graduates?
Have a follow-up game plan.
You might get some free T-shirts, pens, or stress balls, but don't just grab swag and run. Be prepared to take notes and ask the college reps for their business cards so that you can follow up via email. Bonus tip: Prior to the fair, create an email address strictly for college correspondence, so when you add your contact information to the signup sheets, you'll have something more professional than email@example.com.
Make a good impression.
Going to a college fair is a rite of passage — an event that marks the start of a yearlong college admissions journey. Take it seriously. Dress professionally, shake hands, make eye contact — think of it as practice for your future college or job interviews. You never know what might make you stand out from your peers — a memorable conversation could go a long way. Give reps a good reason to put a star next to your name.
Keep an open mind and explore.
The real benefit of a college fair is that it's a one-stop shop for checking out a variety of schools. Don't just zip through the aisles. Spend time talking to representatives at the less-crowded tables too, and you just might find that a particular college you hadn't heard of has a lot to offer.
College fairs can be a great way to gather a lot of information about potential colleges and meet with representatives from different schools all in one day. By making the most of them, you can compile a list of schools that are worth following up with to ask additional question and to thank them for their time at the college fair.