How to Get the Most Out of College Fairs
By Kendell Shaffer
This time of year is College Fair season where representatives from colleges and universities around the globe visit high schools. Sometimes college fairs are organized by majors. For example, schools focusing on STEM programs might be in attendance one evening and schools focusing on Arts programs might be in attendance another. The Ivy’s travel together and have one big event usually at a central hotel. The events can be overwhelming. I suggest that you look ahead and mark the upcoming dates on your calendar. Then give yourselves some time study the schools. Learn as much as you can about them beforehand and narrow down the ones your student is most interested in. Time at the fairs will be limited, so it’s best to pick the top four or five. Popular schools may have lines, so familiarize yourself with some schools that are not so popular and visit those.
At the event you and your student has a chance to talk to the representatives. This is the first impression your student will make. Most likely the rep will ask the student to fill out an info card with their name and address and email. This not only puts the student on the school’s mailing list, but begins a file on the interested student. The representative may make notes on the student’s info card. It’s best for your student to come prepared with specific questions for the rep. The more prepared, the better they will look. The rep will most likely then give the student their business card. If that happens, then make sure your student follows up with a thank you email, perhaps with another question. The rep will add the email to the student’s file and when it comes time to review the application, a relationship with that student has already been established.
Also make sure your student is open to looking at schools that might not have initially been on their radar. Smaller lesser known schools are represented at college fairs and will try to interest students with strong financial aid packages or majors that may not be offered at bigger schools. At a recent art school fair my son became interested in the Art Institute of Chicago, a place he never would have considered just reading about it. But the rep gave such a good pitch, and the program sounded remarkable, my son is now considering the school even with the recent -22 degree weather reports!
Be prepared, keep an open mind and follow up with the reps and your student will make the most of their upcoming college fairs.