The more you know about a specific college, the better equipped you will be to evaluate whether it is a good fit for you. Visiting a campus is best, but not always feasible. However, most students will have the opportunity to visit with college admission officers at local college fairs throughout the year.
Whether you have a small school-based fair in your area or a large nationally-organized one, what happens is basically the same. Universities are invited to come, set up a table, and provide information on their institutions. You will walk in and find rows of tables covered with colorful brochures and university representatives eager to answer questions. Many fairs are limited to a few hours and it can be overwhelming to hear and see so many schools at once.
Here are some hints for getting the most out of your college fair experience:
1. Know that everyone wants you there no matter where you are in the college search process. The event organizers and college representatives need people to attend. They want you there. They will expect to visit with 9th and 10th graders who are just looking, juniors who are starting to narrow down their choices, and seniors who are serious about finalizing choices. You are not wasting anyone’s time; they want to share information with you!
2. Have a plan. Are you just going to see what is out there, pick up some brochures, and chat with a few admissions counselors? Do you have particular schools you want to learn more about? Have you made a list of specific questions you need to ask? Different people will attend with different goals in mind. Know yours.
3. Speak up; ask questions. You don’t need to monopolize one representative’s time for two hours, but don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation and ask questions.
Parents, you are welcome to participate too, but if you have a junior or senior serious about a particular school, make sure he or she takes an active role in the conversation. In some cases this means mom and dad move on to another table to allow the student the chance to talk and ask questions.
4. Understand the admissions representatives you se may be the ones making decisions on your application. You may find a local volunteer or recent graduate manning the table, but more often the person standing there works in admissions and may be the person reading and deciding on applications in your area. You can ask them detailed questions about the university or the admissions process. (And it doesn’t hurt for students to make a good impression.)
Start looking for the college fairs in your area. Consider them one more piece in the college search process.