Fall is a popular time for college fairs to take place and they are a great opportunity for underclassmen to learn more about potential schools. But it can also be overwhelming to walk into a room of over 100 college admissions representatives and at least as many other students. Here are some tips on preparing for and maximizing your time at a college fair.
Why Attend a College Fair
They provide students and parents with free access to information about college programs, financial aid, admissions requirements, tests, campus life, and more. Literature on the school will be available to pick up.
Prior to Attending
Make sure you register ahead of time if that option exists. For some fairs, students can select the attributes that are most important to them in a college when registering and will receive an email with a list of colleges that are the best match for them. Being registered makes check-in easier and makes it possible to receive follow up information from the schools you’re interested in.
Do some research prior to attending. You can typically find a list of colleges on the college fair website. Establish criteria for which schools you will visit with. Think about majors, size of college and location. After identifying a few of interest, spend some time on each college website, learning more about their programs and opportunities to identify further interest. Write down a few questions before you go. Keep in mind the admissions representative can tell you about the admissions requirements, the most popular majors, scholarship opportunities and anything new and exciting happening on campus. They can also give you insight as to the type of student who is successfully admitted to their school. They may not be able to provide great details about each program, but they can direct you on how to find that information.
At the College Fair
Colleges will be set up at tables in a large space, most likely alphabetically. When you find a school you’re interested in, you may have to wait in line to speak to the representative. Manage your time well in regard to this. You don’t want to spend your entire night standing in line. If the line is particularly long, try a different table and come back later. When you are speaking with admissions representative, if there is a line behind you, be cognizant and thoughtful of others who are waiting. Get to the point with your questions and don’t monopolize too much of time. On the other hand, if there’s not a line behind you, feel free to spend as much time as you’d like speaking to the rep. Remember the rep you are talking to is likely the person who will read your application if you decide to apply.
Representatives may ask for your contact information. It’s always a good idea to provide this, if you have any interest in the school. This will demonstrate interest, which could help you in the admissions process. You’ll also receive follow up information. When you open those emails, that also demonstrates interest.
After the Fair
When you get home, ask yourself which colleges stood out and why. Organize the college material you collected and review it that week while it's fresh in your mind. Go over any notes you took during the fair. Throw out the pamphlets of colleges you've ruled out so you can focus on the colleges you're interested in. Do more research on the colleges you're thinking about, explore websites, contact the admissions office with questions you cannot find elsewhere or plan a campus visit.
Where Can I Find a College Fair?
The largest national college fair is put on by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and they arrange numerous college fairs across the country every year. You can also find smaller fairs organized by your regional Association for College Admission Counseling (in the state of KS, it's the Great Plains Association for College Admission Counseling (GPACAC). Your school district may offer a fair in conjunction with a regional group. Other smaller fairs can be found for specialty areas, such as Fine and Performing Arts and STEM-related programs, or Christian Colleges. Virtual college fairs are also a popular option for those who cannot make it to a in-person fair.
Follow the links below for more information on college fair options near you.