Here are my tips for success as you visit local College Fairs (or College Expos) this spring and summer:
1. Arrive early so that you get a head start on the popular schools.
Parking can be difficult! Allow for extra time! Admissions counselors at college fairs talk to many people in a short time, so catch the important ones early.
2. Bring with you a sheet of mailing labels
(like Avery labels) on which you’ve printed your name, address, phone number (where you want to get recruitment calls), email address (you’ll definitely get emails!!), and your high school. This little trick will save you lots of time and energy filling out those college fair information cards by hand–just slap your label on it and you’re set!
3. Come prepared to ask a few intelligent questions
of the college representatives. Even if you can’t think of any, make it sound like you’ve prepared a little bit. For example, if you have no idea if College X has the Finance major you’re hoping for, don’t make your first question the obvious, “Do you have a Finance major?” Odds are high that they do have that major (or something similar). Instead, open the conversation this way, “Hi, my name is Pat Smith. I’m a junior at North High School. I’m thinking of majoring in Finance because I can see myself working in……(fill in the blank on your own)……….. Can you tell me some of the highlights of your program?”
Believe me, you’ll be so much more impressive to the college admissions reps! And, more importantly, you will have a chance at a real conversation. Take the time to get their impressions of what they love about their college, what they are proud of, or what their students are accomplished in. It’s ok to admit that you’re not familiar with their school; give them a chance to tell you what they can offer you and your interests.
Here’s what will really make the college fair useful:
4. Gather all the information and handouts
(you may want to bring a bag for all of it, just in case they don’t give you one at the Expo). Be sure that you have the business card of the admissions rep that you talked to.
5. Take 30-40 minutes to “process” this deluge of information.
Sort out the stack of info into piles of “Interested,” “Consider,” and “Not Interested”. Then, starting with the ones in the Interested pile, write notes to yourself about each whose table you visited. Keep this information in a binder or spreadsheet with all your other college search and college admissions info. You’ll be much more likely to remember whatever minor details you learned from your conversation with the rep. This is the beginning of much critical research you will be doing on your colleges; don’t lose the opportunity.
Do the same for your Consider list, and even your Not Interested list for any reps you actually talked to. Write yourself notes about why you are not interested in those schools.
6. Make yourself memorable
Take the time to write a quick thank you note and mail it to the rep (you’ll have their business card, remember). Just say that it was a pleasure to meet them and thank them for explaining such-and-such about this-and-that. Tell them you look forward to learning more about their school and possibly seeing them at your high school in the fall.