Most high school seniors are counting down the days til graduation, but high school juniors are also gearing up for their next academic adventure—learning about potential colleges and universities to begin the college application process in the fall.
College fairs give students and their parents the opportunity to gather information and speak with admissions officers from several different schools all under one roof. Whether you attend one in your own high school cafeteria or travel to a larger fair that’s being held for all students in your district, college fairs can be a worthwhile experience.
High schools and school districts often hold college fairs with representatives from local colleges and universities, but organizations such as the National Association for College Admission Counseling host larger college fairs where hundreds of two-year and four-year schools from across the country are represented. Online college fairs, such as College Week Live, give students and their parents the ability to learn about a variety of schools right from their own computer.
It’s a good idea to attend as many college fairs as possible. Not only will you gain insight about more schools, you’ll get more experience dealing with college recruiters—a skill that will come in handy when you’re filling out applications, writing admissions essays, and being interviewed by admissions counselors.
Ready to hit the fair? The following tips can help you prepare and get the most out of the college fairs you attend. Have fun!
1. Do your homework. If you’ve made the decision to attend a college fair, you must have received information about it. Look through the list of colleges and universities that will be represented at the college fair, and do a bit of research about the schools that interest you the most. Learn where the schools are located and how big the campuses are, as well as which majors the school offers. This will help you look prepared and knowledgeable when you speak with the admissions officers from those schools, not to mention save time if a school doesn’t offer the major that you’re considering or is located farther away from home than you’d like.
2. Create a “professional” email address. Create an email address that you can use for all of your college-related correspondence. This will keep all of your college search emails separate and organized. If possible, it’s best to create an email address that consists of your first name and last name. firstname.lastname@example.org sounds a lot more professional than email@example.com
3. Have your contact information ready. Just as you will be asking for information from different schools, they will be asking for your contact information. Make things easier on yourself by printing out self-stick labels that contain your name and address, phone number, email address, high school name and graduation year, and your potential major. You could even get business cards printed with your contact information—they’ve become very reasonably priced.
4. Bring something to write with. Make sure you have a small notebook or notepad with you, as well as a couple of pens. You’ll want to remember things that different admissions officers tell you, so be sure you’re prepared to take notes.
5. Dress to impress. You don’t have to wear a business suit to a college fair, but do yourself a favor and leave the ripped jeans and worn-out flip flops at home. It is possible to look nice while still being casual! College fairs are the first contact that many students have with the school they wind up attending, and always remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
6. Be confident. When visiting the booths or tables set up at a college fair, put your best foot forward. Introduce yourself and don’t be embarrassed to tell the representatives some of your biggest accomplishments. Be confident without being cocky.
7. Ask questions. Even though you did a bit of preliminary research on a few different schools, be sure to ask questions at the college fair. College is an expensive investment, so you’ll want to learn as much as you can at this stage of the game. Ask the representatives about admissions deadlines, financial aid deadlines, scholarship opportunities, or anything else that you weren’t able to find on the school’s website.
8. Take notes. Since you brought something to write with, be sure to take notes on each school you “visited” at the college fair. This will also help you appear interested and organized.
9. Review all of your information. Gather all of the brochures and booklets you received at the college fair, and go through them with your parents. Review what you learned and discuss what you liked (or didn’t like) about the various schools. Don’t wait too long to do this, or you’ll start to forget things!
10. Follow up with schools you were interested in. A few days after the college fair, send a follow-up email to the college representatives from the schools that you liked and let them know you were glad to speak with them. This will provide you with the opportunity for further correspondence.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
Have something to say? Feel free to add comments or additional information.