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College Fair Guide and Checklist

By Juaquin, IvyWise Principal College Admissions Counselor

Fall is college fair season, and high school juniors across the country will have the opportunity to explore different colleges and learn more about schools they’re interested in applying to next year. College fairs are a great opportunity to get student’s interest piqued in the college admissions process while also providing them with valuable information needed to make informed college decisions.

As a counselor and former admissions officer I see the value in attending a college fair, especially for students who are just starting to think about what they want out of their college experience. That is why I developed this guide to help students get the most out of college fairs. Below are some tips on what students need to do before, during, and after the college fair to maximize the experience and get the information they need in order to find their best-fit colleges.

Before the Fair

Meet with your college counselor.
College counselors can help with identifying majors and suggesting which colleges to visit at the fair. Make time to meet prior to the fair to go over your goals, needs, and what exactly you’re looking for in a college so your counselor can make informed recommendations.

Plan your timeline.
After receiving college suggestions from your counselor, plan which booths you’d like to visit during the fair. If your list is long, make sure to allot enough time to visit all the schools you’re interested in. Plan to visit your top-choice colleges first, then leave time to visit other schools of interest toward the end of the fair. It’s easy to get caught up in conversation and spent a lot of time at one booth – set a time limit for each stop and stick to it if you’ve gotten all the information you need from that representative.

Plan what questions to ask.
The college fair is one of the best opportunities to get information on colleges straight from the source. This is important when building your balanced college list, as you can get relevant information needed to make informed decisions directly from the person who works there. Here are a few examples of questions that students should ask when speaking with a college representative at a college fair—pick ones most important to you:

  • What type(s) of students succeed at that school?
  • Location (urban, rural, suburbs)? How many students live on campus?
  • Class size? Student teacher ratio? TA’s vs. professors teaching classes?
  • How diverse is the campus? Student organizations? Crime rate?
  • Admission requirements? GPA? Test scores? Portfolios?
  • How selective is admissions? Male to female ratio?
  • Deadlines for applications? Honors Programs? Scholarships?
  • Visitation/orientation programs? Year-abroad programs?
  • Will they guarantee to meet 100% of student’s financial need?
  • What percentage of students graduate in four years?
  • What’s the retention rate—how many students return after freshman year?

During the Fair

Bring a notebook and pen.
You’ll be getting a lot of information, so write it down! Take notes as you’re talking with reps so you can keep track of who said what. Also, jot down general impressions as well as specific things you want to remember. Recalling details is impressive in follow-up conversations with that college and can come in handy when visiting or writing your application essays.

Get on the mailing list.
Stay in touch! One of the easiest ways to sign up for communications is to leave a completed interest card with reps, or come to the fair with pre-printed, self-stick address labels. Save time and spare yourself an aching hand by having a label ready—colleges appreciate being able to read them too! Make sure to get the rep’s contact information, too, in case you have any follow-up questions after the fair.

Leave time for browsing.
After you’ve visited with the colleges on your list, you may want to visit a few that weren’t but look interesting to you. You may find an unexpected treasure!

Be independent.
Even if several friends plan to visit the same college booth, don’t all go together. You’ll have plenty of time to share notes later. You have your own questions to ask, and you’ll want the reps undivided attention.

Remember to…

  • Represent yourself and your school with pride. Colleges want to see students excited about their education and their plans for the future.
  • Introduce yourself using eye contact and a hand- shake. Tell the rep you’re from “X” High School. First impressions count! Make a good one.
  • Conduct yourself as an adult. This is your chance to show you’re mature and prepared for college.
  • Take your time—don’t rush through exhibits. There will be a lot of colleges represented. Make sure you see everything you want to see.
  • Ask pertinent questions. This is your chance to get some good information straight from the source – don’t be afraid to ask questions.

After the Fair

Go over all the information you collected.
After the fair, find time to look through all the brochures and info you collected—look them over and review your notes. Decide which schools you’d like to research further and which are taking a back seat.

Follow up
Once you have a good idea about the colleges you want to pursue further, follow up with the rep you met with an email. Ask any additional questions you may have, and thank him or her for their time. This is a great way to build a relationship with the rep who might ultimately read your application and demonstrate your interest in that particular college.

College fairs are an important tool in your college preparation journey, so make the most of them! For more information on researching colleges and building your balanced college list, be sure to follow our blog and newsletter. If you needed additional help selecting best-fit colleges and preparing for the college admissions process, contact us today for more information on our college counseling services.

Learn more about Juaquin by checking out his online biography!