How do I get the most out of a college fair?

There are multiple strategies for getting the most out of a college fair. Any strategy starts with the same premise: talk to the admissions representative. After all, given the amount of information available from the internet, the point of attending a college fair is talk to actual people. And if you are going to talk to admission representatives, there’s no point in asking questions that can be easily answered by going to the website.

Therefore, find out which schools are attending the fair. Look up their basic information such as size, location, average test scores, etc. before you go. If you are interested in a unique major, find out which schools offer it before you go.

If the fair doesn’t have an online registration option, print out mailing labels with your name, address, phone number, email, graduating year, and major. This way you can just stick the label on information cards rather than spend time filling out each card at the fair.

Make sure you get the cards from the college representatives. This gives you a chance to email follow-up questions or just thank them for their time.

If the fair has general information sessions as well, it might be a good idea to get a parent to attend them. Remember, the admission representatives are interested in speaking to you, not your parents.

Strategy 1: You have specific schools you are interested in and plan on applying to

Make a list of the schools in order of importance to you. Get hold of a map of the fair as soon as possible and plot out your schools. Have questions ready that are relevant to your situation. Decide before hand how important it is for you to wait in line to actually speak to a representative versus just leaving your information and getting to other schools on your list.

Even if you don’t have the chance to speak with a representative, you should still get her business card. This way you can use the situation to email them later with questions along the lines of “I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to talk to you at the fair but wanted to ask you..”

Strategy 2: Find out about schools you haven’t even considered

Use the list of participating colleges to identify schools that you haven’t considered before but you would qualify to attend. Often, these will be schools that don’t have a lot of people waiting in line which gives you the chance to spend more time with the representatives.

In these cases, you still don’t want to waste time asking about easily answered questions such as size. However, it is the chance to ask more open-ended questions such as “I don’t know much about your school and would like to know what you think its most appealing features are?” My son found one of the schools that was among his final three choices this way.

Where to Find Fairs

Questions to ask

Ask the representative their opinion

  • What do you like best about your school?
  • What do you think are its strongest programs?
  • What kinds of students do well on your campus?
  • How is you school different from other (insert similar type of school such as Liberal Arts Colleges, research universities, engineering schools, etc.)

Ask about special situations

  • I’m going to be moving before my senior year, how should I handle letters of recommendations and/or changes in how GPA is calculated?
  • What are the requirements for homeschoolers?
  • I won’t have three years of a foreign language, can I still apply?
  • Can I send in a sample of work I’ve done on a project as part of my application?
  • Are there cooperative programs for specific majors? (generally engineering)
  • How easy/hard is it to change majors to (music, art, engineering, business)?

General questions

  • How are roommates assigned?
  • How are dorms assigned, lottery by year, GPA?
  • How are advisers assigned?
  • How do freshman register for classes?
  • How do students get involved in research?
  • Can any student audition for theater or music ensembles?
  • What sort of intramural sports are available?
  • Are there funds for student initiated clubs and activities?
  • How do most students find internships?
  • When does the career placement center start working with students?

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