Attending a college fair is a great way to connect with schools you are interested in and make a positive first impression on their representatives. However, there are some important things to keep in mind in order to make the most effective use of your time.
Be prepared! Register for the event ahead of time and make a list of the participating colleges you want to speak with. Make sure they have the major you are interested in! Show up promptly when the fair begins, to allow yourself enough time to visit all the booths of interest.
Ask good questions. Have a few (3 to 5) questions ready to ask each school. Make sure you are not asking generic questions that could easily be answered by looking at the school’s website. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about how colleges support their students and what the general culture of the school is. Ask about your chosen major, and if you are undecided, ask how they advise and help undecided students.
Describe yourself. Have a brief (one minute maximum) ‘speech’ prepared that includes a summary of your interests, goals, qualifications, and what you can bring to a particular school. This is a great way to introduce yourself to the representative and demonstrate your interest.
An informational sticker label or postcard can be very helpful. Consider creating large stickers or cards with your name, mailing address, date of birth, phone number, current school, expected graduation date, e-mail address, area of academic interest, and expected college start date. These can be handed to the representative or attached to their information sheet, saving you the time and energy it would take to hand write everything at each separate booth.
Form a route. When you arrive, get a map of the fair and mark all the schools you are interested in. Start at the ones with the shorter lines. Do not attempt to go to every booth, row by row!
Don’t forget your supplies. Bring a sturdy backpack to carry brochures and informational materials, pens, and a blank notebook. A snack and a bottle of water might be nice to have, too.
Take notes. If anything important or memorable stands out, write it down immediately after your visit, before you head to the next booth. There may be some details you could use in your college essays!
Be open to other options. If there are long lines for the schools you planned on checking out, why not stop by one you weren’t considering? You may be pleasantly surprised!
Appearances matter. Dress appropriately, approach college representatives with confidence and a smile, and be sure to make eye contact when speaking. Greet them with a firm handshake. Be mindful of the amount of time you spend conversing, especially when there is a line of students behind you. This is your chance to make a positive and memorable, although brief, impression.
Follow up. Get a business card from each representative, and send him or her an e-mail or thank you card after the fair if you are still interested in applying to his or her school.
After the fair, discuss it with your family. The most important thing you can do after attending a college fair is to debrief. Talk about what sounded good, or bad, about the schools you chose to visit with. Use this information to refine your college search criteria.
Arrive prepared, ask the right questions, make a good impression on the college representatives, and review the results afterwards. If you can accomplish all of these things, you will certainly be making the most of any college fair you choose to attend!
By Jilly Warner
© College Goals LLC 2015