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The College Fair - What's it all about?

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Choosing a college requires a great deal of information. Visiting each campus you are interested in can be quite expensive. College fairs will allow you to obtain a lot of information without incurring the costs of visiting schools. At these fairs you will find rows of tables or booths staffed by college representatives, all available to answer your questions. You will also be able to pick up literature and applications from the participating schools.

Some fairs feature a large variety of colleges, such as the National College Fair. The National College Fairs Program is a division of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The NCAC sponsors about 35 college fairs around the country every year. Some fairs focus on certain types of colleges or certain types of students. Often times, college fairs are held at area colleges or high schools. Your guidance counselor can advise you of local college fairs. You can check the NACAC web site for information about national college fairs.

It is wise to prepare for a college fair before attending. You should have some idea of what type of college you want to attend. Considerations include such things as whether you’d prefer a large or small college, what major you wish to pursue, whether you want to stay close to home or go somewhere far away, whether you want an urban or rural environment, etc. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you should do some research on the schools that interest you. This will help you in asking pertinent questions.

College fairs may be of interest to you regardless of what grade you are in. If you are a freshman or sophomore, you may just want to wander around and see all the possibilities. As a junior, you should focus on colleges where you are considering applying. If you are a senior, use the college fair to make contacts at schools where you are applying.

There are a few things you can do to make your day go a little smoother.

  • Take a pen and notebook to write down notes. Write things down after you talk with college representatives. Don’t rely on your memory—once you’ve left the fair, you may forget who told you what.
  • Bring a bag for collecting literature. You’ll probably gather a lot of information and this will keep you from losing any of it. It will also make it easier to carry your information around.
  • You may want to print address labels with your name, address, phone number, email address, and year of graduation. This is very handy if you plan on requesting information from a large number of schools. It will also save you time and let you focus on talking with the college representative.
  • Come prepared with a list of questions.
  • Check to see if there are informational sessions on topics such as financial aid. Make sure you attend one of these workshops. Applying for financial aid is not difficult, but there are important facts and deadlines to know. You are the one going to college, not your parents. Do not leave it to them to get this information for you.
  • Pick up business cards for representatives of colleges you like. Keep these cards in case you have questions later.

The best thing about college fairs is the contact you get with college representatives. Take advantage of this opportunity. Come prepared with some questions you want to ask. A few examples of some questions you might want to include are:

  • What are the application deadlines for admissions and financial aid?
  • When must I declare a major?
  • How are roommate selections handled?
  • What can a faculty advisor do for me?
  • Are there any special placement tests that you can take to place into or out of certain classes?
  • What is the college’s enrollment?

You should also ask questions about your own interests. Find out about activities you’d like to pursue and course requirements for the majors in which you’re interested.

Most of the time, the primary representative you will talk to will be an admissions professional from the college. College alumni sometimes speak at college fairs about their alma maters. Don’t discount the information available from alumni. They may be a better resource for your questions about student life outside of the classroom.

After the college fair you should look through the materials you’ve collected and your notes – preferably within a week. Don’t keep everything. Weed out colleges that aren’t a good fit. Research colleges that interest you. Explore websites, request additional information, and plan a visit if needed.

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