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September 12, 2013

All The Right Moves: A College Fair Game Plan

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350.

That is roughly the number of college fairs we attended last year. 350 college fairs equate to hundreds of brochures and inquiry cards handed out to thousands of prospective students with countless questions. Every so often, somebody will come by and surprise us with a unique question. But for the most part, most questions will be general. Don’t worry; we don’t expect you to stress about the next question that will make you stand out from the crowd. We don’t mind hearing the same questions, as long as the questions are relevant to you. The purpose of this blog is to help you to take less of a passive role during these college fairs. Be proactive and have a plan. A foolproof game plan.

The Pregame Warm-Up

         The best way to show initiative is by doing your research before the college fair. (NOTE: If you replace “college fair” with whatever it is you’re preparing for; whether it’s a first date, job interview, or buying a dog, you will always get better results. It’s just commonly good practice.) Doing this research might prevent you from asking a question like, “Do you have a psychology program?” While that is a valid question, a better informed question might be, “I see that you have a psychology program and that tons of research is happening in that department. Can you please talk to me about how to get in touch with faculty who is involved in research?” That question not only shows initiative, it also sets you apart. Boom! Instant connection made.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

         In terms of a college fair, a good offense could mean different things. It could mean finding out which universities will be present ahead of time and creating a top ten list of which tables you must visit. It could also mean arriving early so that you make the most of your time. A college fair is a great opportunity to get one-on-one face time with counselors who will be reading your applications and advocating on your behalf. You might get a little bit more time with us if you arrive promptly. Finally, a great offensive move is bringing pre-printed labels with your contact information, high school, graduation year, etc. By doing so, you don’t waste time filling out information cards and have more time for asking questions. Bam! More connections made.

Rookie Move

         For some of you, these college fairs will be your first step at the college search process. If that is the case, you will probably spend most of your time taking brochures and filling out inquiry cards. That is totally fine and is just as productive. You should know that many schools allow you to contact their admission counselors directly. USC is one of those schools. It is a good idea to ask the person behind the table for a business card just in case you want to contact us at a later date when you have specific questions. Take a brochure home, do research and then email/phone us with more informed questions.

Final Pep Talk

         Stand straight. Be confident. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Give a firm handshake. Dress well. Stay hydrated (you’ll be walking and talking a lot). Be your own advocate; don’t make your parents do the talking for you. Be friendly and professional. Finally, make the most of your time there. It’s not a time to catch up with friends or just take freebies. Be active and have a purpose. We are there to help you, but ultimately it is up to you how beneficial you want that time to be.

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