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Don't Dismiss Small-Town CollegesV. Peter Pitts, M.A.
Often held in the fall months, a college fair is an exciting event in your high school junior or senior’s college journey. High schools will host representatives from colleges and universities eager to share their college’s offerings with as many high school hopefuls as possible.
Your student may want you to go with them, or they may feel excited to do this on your own. Either way, here are five tips to help them get the most out of this important event!
Your student should scan the list of participating schools and identify schools they're most interested in learning more about. They won’t have time to visit EVERY college table so they need to prioritize.
Some college fairs can have 30–100 schools represented, so help them make a plan before they go. The plan might include looking at the floor plan of the event venue (if possible) before or as soon as they arrive. Encourage them to leave some time to stop by a few tables not on their "must visit" list — they could have the best conversation with a college representative from a school that wasn't on their radar!
Suggest that your student take a bag or folder to collect brochures, handouts, and business cards. They will have A LOT of papers to look through after the fair. Plus they want their hands to be free for handshakes, not holding college swag they’ll collect at every table.
Thinking about attending a virtual college fair? Learn more here — no bag needed! And scroll to the bottom of this article for more info about virtual fairs and events this fall.
Your student should prepare a question or two to ask each college representative. A question like “What makes your college special?” will allow them to compare answers after the fair is over.
If they have specific characteristics they're looking for in a college/university, here are some great questions to consider.
Your student should be prepared to share their email address for more information about upcoming tours, open house dates, campus visits, etc. Before attending a college fair is a good time to create a “professional” email address. Creating a new email address will allow them to keep their personal emails (and junk emails) separate from emails sent by colleges with potentially important information about application deadlines, scholarships, etc.
After the fair, encourage your student to make notes about conversations they had, things they liked or didn’t like about colleges they talked to, or anything else that stands out in their mind. Maybe they want to debrief with you. You can look through the brochures and college information together while the experience is still fresh. Throw out (or recycle) marketing material from schools that don’t make it to the top of their list.
Select the "Learn" tab to find great tips for getting the most out of the virtual college fair experience plus essay tips, an "Ask the Admission Office Checklist Series," advice about how to use your school counselor and more.
Check their schedule for fall events:
Attending college fairs is just ONE STEP in your student’s journey to college. Keep an open mind and remember to enjoy the event.
Senior year is here! It’s an exciting chapter for your high school senior, with lots to do. We’re here to help you both along the way.