The fall is an exciting time of year. Freshmen are eagerly anticipating what life in high school will be like, while seniors are counting down the days until graduation. Students will soon be immersed with information regarding college applications, scholarship opportunities, and college entrance exams. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially for those who have put off their college planning tasks, such as deciding where to apply and which major to choose. This is why it is important to start researching colleges as early as your freshman year of high school. The earlier you can narrow down your top choices, the more time you will have to create an effective action plan to get you closer to your goals. One of the best ways to help you decide which colleges may be perfect for you is to attend a local or regional college fair.
Since most college fairs are limited to just a few hours, students should plan ahead to ensure they make the most of their allotted time. Here are a few things every student should consider before attending a college fair.
You may only have a few minutes with each college representative, so prepare a list of important questions specific to what you are looking for in a college. Some things to consider may include:
• Do you provide scholarships for AP or IB students?
• How many students graduate in four years?
• What percentage of students received grants and scholarships?
• Do you require freshmen to live on campus?
• How many students in my degree/major are accepted each year?
• Do you offer study abroad opportunities?
If you are interested in playing collegiate sports or have a specific interest in certain clubs, be sure to inquire about availability. You should also inquire about setting up college interviews and campus visits, and ask for the representative’s contact information for any follow-up questions you may have when you get home.
Many college fairs will provide attendees with a gift bag or items, but some do not. Be prepared by bringing the following items with you to any upcoming events.
• Backpack or tote (great for carrying all the brochures and materials you will collect)
• Pen or pencil
• Notepad (for jotting down the answers to your questions)
• Exhibitor map (can usually be downloaded prior to the event)
Before the event, review the list of attending schools and create a list (in order of importance) of those you wish to visit. This will ensure you don’t miss any you are seriously considering for admissions. If you have additional time, stop by some of the lesser-known schools too, as you may be surprised to find that many may have exactly what you are looking for in a college. Regional college fairs, such as those organized by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), will usually require students to register either online or at the event. Students then receive a printout with a barcode that allows exhibitors to capture their contact information in mere seconds. If you attend a local event, consider bringing some business cards or pre-printed forms to give to the representatives, as this will cut down your time filling out contact forms.
After the event, it’s a good idea to review the brochures and questions, identifying those schools that align with your vision for college. You may also want to consider sending a personal note to those schools high on your list, as it never hurts to start building relationships with the admission staff.
Want to find out more about college fairs in your area? Visit the NACAC website for locations and dates of upcoming events.