College fairs are an excellent resource for prospective students to learn about universities, connect with admissions counselors, and find out what it takes to attend the school of their dreams.
You need to prepare yourself if you want to get the most out of college fairs. Here are some tips to help you find, navigate, and talk with the admissions professionals you meet at these events.
Find college fairs beyond your school
Newspapers and magazines in your community usually have listings of upcoming college fairs. The Internet is also a great resource for finding out about college fairs; two sites to visit frequently are GoToCollegeFairs.com and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Both sites include a frequently updated national index of college fairs, plus descriptions of colleges in attendance.
Before the fair, choose a few colleges that you want to learn more about and take 15 or 20 minutes to explore their websites. Learn as much as you can about their academic programs, campus life, and admission processes. If something sticks out or seems unusual, make a note of it so you can bring it up to the admissions counselors at the fair. Not only is this a great way to get specific, personalized information about the school, you’ll impress admissions counselors by showing them that you’ve done your homework. You can also pre-register for events and print address labels with your contact information, high school demographics, and academic profile before the fair. That way you’ll have more time for asking questions.
Ask specific questions
Many students attending college fairs are overwhelmed or excited at the prospect of speaking with universities and forget about the importance of asking valuable, intelligent questions. Avoid general questions like, “What is your ___ program like?” or “How is life on campus?” Instead, ask things like “What are the requirements for your business program?” or “What are the most popular extracurricular activities?”
Admissions counselors might not be able to recite the exact requirements of every single program off the top of their heads, but they will probably have brochures or paperwork for several different majors or departments. If not, they can at least give you the contact information of someone who can answer your questions.
Distinguish yourself from the crowd
Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions counselor attending a college fair. Not only are there hundreds of students at the fair, they might be going to multiple college fairs in the same month or even week. Setting yourself apart from other prospective students will give you an edge—they might even remember you when it’s time to review your application!
There are many different ways to distinguish yourself from other students: the way you dress, your well-polished résumé, and the questions you ask can all help you stand out. It could even be something as simple as making eye contact and smiling while you speak. These things might not seem like a big deal, but counselors often remember the small details long after the fair is over.
College fair tips will help you succeed
The ultimate goal of a college fair is for you to learn about and connect with schools you are interested in attending. If you research in advance, come prepared, and set yourself apart from other students, there’s a good chance that you’ll achieve this objective.
If you’re looking for more info about preparing for the college admissions process and choosing the best school for you, download The Ultimate College Decision Timeline checklist for a year-by-year guide: