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Take Advantage of That College Fair


It’s college fair season and there are a lot of ways that you can take advantage of the college fair you attend.  They can be a lot of fun and students and parents can learn a lot about several schools quickly and efficiently.

Most fairs are held in a huge space – the school cafeteria, gym or classrooms.  Often all the large spaces in the venue are used.  When you arrive, you will be given a map and a list of schools that are expected.  If you’re lucky, the schools will be in some kind of logical order, but that doesn’t always happen.

Some fairs are so big they have to be held at Chicago’s Navy Pier National College Fair.  Wear comfortable shoes and encourage your parents to do the same. Also, wear layers.  Even if it’s wicked cold outside that gym can get hot fast.

Which Schools Should You Talk To?

You’ll find that the colleges that are closest to home have the longest lines.  If the school is within 50 miles of your home, keep walking; if you’re really interested in that school, visit it — have a tour, meet students, sit in on a class. You’ll learn a lot about what you like and don’t like by visiting colleges and you might as well start with the ones that are close to home.   Most people attend school within 150 miles of home — and you may, too.

But take THIS opportunity to talk to interesting schools that meet your criteria but are a little further afield. Then if you love what you hear from the admission rep, visit that school when you can.

Do you know what your “wants and needs” criteria are? Terrific!  Ask specific questions about what you are interested in.  Are you still exploring things like majors, size of school, geography? Great! Ask them about the advantages of their location or their size or their student body.  Talking to a variety of schools at a college fair will help you consider what you prefer and prioritize your wants and needs.

Learn about the person you’re talking to

Introduce yourself to the school representative and shake his or her hand. Then ask the representative what their responsibilities are.

If you are talking to an admission representative, it’s their job to know a lot about the college and connect with you to talk about how the school meets your interests.  If you are talking to a graduate of the school (an alumni representative) who volunteers to staff the table at the college fair, it’s best to ask them about their experience at the school – and find out when they last visited the college.  If they haven’t been on campus for 15 years, enjoy your time with them but save your first impression for an in-person visit.

Make your life a little easier:

Run a bunch of large mailing labels that include your:

First and Last Names


Email address (you may want to create an email account just for communication from colleges)

Year of high school graduation and the High School you’re attending

Major(s) or career goals you’re thinking of (optional)

Telephone number (optional, but a good idea if you want to hear from schools that want to recruit you

How responsive and organized are they?

Plan to ask questions – Grace Fleming, homework expert has some good suggestions on her blog.  Decide on one thing that’s important to you.  Do you want to talk to a faculty member in the Chemistry Department?  Do you want to learn more about the theater opportunities from a student who participates in that activity?  Do you have questions about internship opportunities?  At each school tell the rep that you would appreciate hearing from someone who can talk to you about your interest.  Tell them what time of day is best to reach you.  Keep track of which schools you talk to – and which of them follow up on your request.

TIP: If you are impressed with the contact be sure to mention the experience in your essay for that college.  Describe the conversation you had and why it helped you decide that this school is a good fit for you.

Then go home and read all of those beautiful brochures before you store them under your bed.





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