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Tips for successful college fair attendance

College fairs can be intimidating. Students should prepare before they attend a college fair to ensure a successful event.
College fairs can be intimidating. Students should prepare before they attend a college fair to ensure a successful event.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Attending a college fair can be intimidating for students and their parents, especially if they come unprepared. Depending on the college fair, there could be anywhere from ten to hundreds of colleges in attendance. Where should one start? If students come unprepared, they may miss out on opportunities to talk to colleges that could be great options. Therefore, students should prepare before the college fair to ensure they get the most out of the event. Here are some tips for a successful college fair:

Get to know yourself and what you want in a college.
Depending on the size of the college fair, students will not be able to visit every table. Students should get to know what type of colleges they would enjoy attending. Students must ask themselves the following questions:

  • What locations would you consider? Do you only want to be a certain amount of miles away from home? Do you only want to consider colleges in certain states?
  • What majors are you interested in studying? It is okay to have multiple interests or not know at all. If students have multiple interests they should search for colleges that offer all of the majors they are interested in studying.
  • What size college do you want to attend? There are colleges that have only a few hundred students to colleges that have 50,000 students.
  • Do you want to attend a college with religious affiliation?
  • Is there an extracurricular activity that is very important to you?

Find out what colleges will be attending the fair.
Many college fairs will advertise the institutions that will be attending the fair. Students should review the college fair website or check with their school counselor for information. This list will be used when students are planning their time at the college.

Do some research before the college fair.
Find out the colleges that everything you are looking for in a school. A great tool is big futureTM by The College Board. Students can plug in their preferences and the website will produce a list of colleges that meet their needs. Compare this list with the colleges attending the fair and make sure to visit the colleges on both lists at the fair.

Have your information ready.
Many college fairs, especially the large fairs, are moving towards having students register before attending. The registration will produce a bar code students can use to provide colleges with their information. This will save students a lot of time at the fair. Students should also prepare labels with their name, mailing and email addresses, phone number, year of graduation, interested major and anything else colleges may want to know. The labels will save students a lot of time if scanners are not available. Even if a college offers pre-registration, students should have information labels available if a college is not using a scanner.

Be patient.
Depending on the college fair, students may have to wait in line to talk to a college representative, especially at a “big name” college. Students should be patient and wait their turn. Talking to representatives is very important when researching colleges because they have information that may not be available on websites or publications.

Gather information.
Get the information the college is handing out at the fair. The brochures will provide a lot general information about the college. Students should also get the admission counselor’s business card. The admission counselor will be a great resource during the college selection process. Students can contact the counselor when they have questions about the college that the brochures and websites cannot answer.

Represent yourself well.
Students should introduce themselves to the representative and ask questions about the institution. Students should also be respectful to the college representative, no matter how they are affiliated with the institution. The college fair representative may be an admission counselor, alumni volunteer or a current student. No matter who they are, they may be taking notes on the students they meet.

Go outside of your comfort zone.
There will be colleges at the college fair that students never thought they would consider. If there is something interesting at a college table and “calling” the student to visit, they should go for it and ask some questions. Students might be surprised and find another college or two that are worth looking into during their college search.

Do further investigation after the college fair.
Students should review all of the materials they gathered at the college fair. The brochures provide a lot of information about topics that are useful to prospective students. Students should use this information to help them narrow down their college lists.

College fairs are a great resource as students are researching colleges. College fairs give students the opportunity to learn a lot about many colleges all in one place. However, to ensure the event is a successful, students should be prepared before they attend.

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