Anyone who has attended a FCPS College Fair knows this tends to be a hectic event.
With about 400 colleges and thousands of high school students and their families crowding into Fair Oaks Mall, things get a little crazy with lines building early at the exhibits.
But it’s an annual event and a rite of passage for some, as FCPS college fairs are among the largest and best attended in the DC area.
This year, students are invited to “pre-register” online using software that links them with colleges through the magic of a barcode scanned during visits with admissions representatives attending the fair.
“The online registration process creates a barcode that students bring with them to the fair,” said Marian M. Kendrick, FCPS College Fair/College Night liaison. “It streamlines the process for students and colleges and improves the flow of the whole fair.”
Students who have attended National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) fairs will recognize the scanners. The technology is provided by gotocollegefairs.com and is the same as that used by NACAC since 2007.
Logging on to the 2013 FCPS College Fair & Night registration site, students provide basic contact information, an indication of academic interests, and graduation year and high school.
In return, they receive an “Admittance Pass” (personalized barcode) that is printed out and brought to the fair. College reps scan the barcode as a way to retrieve information thereby eliminating the need for visitors to complete individual registration cards at every table.
After the fair, students return home with the usual stack of glossy brochures and a few business cards, while colleges return with important information on interested students.
And two to three days after the fair, colleges will have all their leads emailed to them in an Excel spreadsheet, so they can start the follow-up process right away.
But the system isn’t perfect, and colleges complain about the “strength” of the leads they receive through the electronic system. Students who blow past an exhibit and wave the scanner in the direction of the admissions representative aren’t demonstrating the kind of serious interest they like to see.
To reinforce interest, students should take time to ask a few questions and collect a business card. Later in the evening, follow-up with a quick note to the person with whom you spoke underscoring your interest and desire to investigate the school further.
This year’s fair will be held at Fair Oaks Shopping Mall on Sunday, October 20, from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm, and a follow-up College Night will take place at Hayfield Secondary School on Monday, October 21, from 7:00 to 9:00.
Students planning to attend either event are encouraged, but not required to pre-register. Those who have not pre-registered, however, will not be given barcodes on the night of the fair. They’re on their own with low-tech methods of providing information to colleges. Pre-printed labels for this purpose are recommended.