College fairs. We know them. We love them. Almost every student will attend at least one fair before they graduate high school. But, the current college fair format has been around since the 1970s and really hasn’t changed so much. We wanted to ask ourselves – are college fairs still valuable? Now that so much information is available online, what can we do to get the most out of college fairs?
The answer to the first question is easy – yes, college fairs are still valuable, because we want to allow for a human connection. We want to offer students an opportunity to connect with us, and we want to be accessible to answer student questions as much as possible. With that being said, there are certainly things that you can do to make you College Fair experience as valuable as possible.
- Get Informed – most college fairs will have a list of colleges and universities who have registered for the fair in advance. Look at that list closely! Note the schools you have heard of, the ones you haven’t heard of, schools that are on your list, not on your list, etc. Knowing who is going to be there helps with the next step.
- Do Your Research – there are plenty of questions you can (and should) have answered before you go to the college fair. You don’t have to research every school that is attending, but certainly the ones you are interested in. Know their admission rate, if they have your program, their average SAT/ACT/GPA information, etc.
- Prepare Questions – since you will already have the basic questions answered with your research, prepare some more in depth questions for the person behind the table. Think about a couple of things as you create your questions: A) what information is not available/hard to find online? B) Almost every college asks you some version of “why do you want to go to this school” and this is a great opportunity to get some information that can help inform your answer to that question. Here are some examples of good questions to consider:
- What type of student succeeds at your school?
- If I am interested in XYZ subjects, is there a major that would encompass all of these?
- What’s a popular class (not major) at your school?
- How would you describe the campus culture?
- What are you looking for in the supplemental essays in your application?
Additionally, think about some more “basic” questions and how you might elevate those to give you more in-depth information. Here are some examples of questions we hear all the time and how they can be changed to give you more perspective:
|How’s your Psych program?||…becomes…||Are there research opportunities in the Psychology department? How can I get more involved with the Psych department? Any clubs or organizations I can join that relate to Psych? Is it possible to pursue a minor/second major with a Psych degree?
|What’s your acceptance rate?||…becomes…||How can I stand out in a competitive process? What qualities in an application stand out/are you looking for?
|What clubs do you have?||…becomes…||How can I get involved? Where do I get more information about a specific club at your school?
|What’s your average test score?||…becomes…||How are test scores considered in your process?|
- Be Open – There may be over 100 colleges at your fair, and it’s highly unlikely that you know all of them. So, be adventurous! Make it a point to talk to at least 5 schools you haven’t heard of or don’t know very well. You never know where you might find a great college option for yourself. At the very least, you can cross another school off of your list.
- Inquiry Cards – every school will have some method of getting your information. Maybe this is an event where reps scan your information off of a barcode, or maybe they have little postcards for you to fill out. Fill these out – especially for schools you are interested in! This is how we connect with you after the fair about deadlines, programs, or events in your area.
- Know The Person Behind The Table – the person representing the college may be a current student, alumni volunteer, or the person who is actually reading your application. Ask who they are and don’t be afraid to ask for their contact information.
- Talk To Your Parents – if your parents are coming with you, talk with them ahead of time. Come up with some questions together, share the list of schools you want to talk to and get their input. At the same time, don’t let your parents dominate the discussion or speak for you. You should be driving the question and discussion with the admission counselor, especially since we always want to speak first and foremost to the student themselves. This fair is about you and getting more information to help you with your final decision, but at the end of the day where you go to college is a family decision so you should get them involved early!
- Coming Unprepared – many of our best practices are geared towards getting you prepared for a college fair so that you get the most out of it. If you don’t prepare at all, you will be overwhelmed by all of the options. You also won’t get as much useful information out of the college representatives, since you’ll be asking more Google-able questions instead of the more in-depth ones that can really help you in the long-run.
- “I Just Want To Put A Face To The Name” – we often have several people at our table with questions, and this really won’t help us remember who you are. Not because you aren’t memorable, just because we’re talking to so many people! We are more likely to remember the student who did their research and asked good questions than the student who just waited in line to shake our hand and then left.
College fairs can be great ways to learn about your options and to solidify your list. But, ultimately, the more prepared you are, the more you will get out of it.
See you at the fair!
BY: Tyler Rose Veguez & Hayley Camin
Senior Assistant Directors of Admission