But be careful – college fairs can be overwhelming, especially if you plunge in without a plan.
Here’s How to Visit a College Fair:
1. Locate a College Fair in Your Area.
The biggest organizer of college fairs is the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). You’ll find a complete list of college fairs on their website. They also organize Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs.
You can register beforehand for a NACAC fair, which will save time and standing on line.
High schools organize college fairs, too. Every year you’ll find me at the Danbury College & Vocational Fair in Danbury, Connecticut, where I love meeting and talking to students about writing college application essays. (Come see me!)
2. Before You Go to the Fair:
- Make a list of the colleges you want to visit. The schools should meet your criteria (academics, extracurriculars, location, size, etc.).
- Take a notebook and a pen or pencil.
- Take a bag or backpack to stash the information you’ll collect.
- If you have access to a computer, print address labels with your name and address to stick on all the requests for information you’ll want to fill out (a time-saver!).
- Dress decently. You may be meeting the college admissions officer from the school of your dreams.
- Write down questions for the college reps. Here are a few possible questions:
- What are the most popular majors at your school?
- Do you offer the sports or extra curricular activities I’m interested in?
- What kind of career services do you offer your students?
- How available are the instructors to the students?
- Do the best professors teach undergraduates?
- How many students receive financial aid?
- NACAC offers a complete list of questions to print out. Find it here.
3. When You Arrive:
- Pick up a Map. Mark off the colleges that you want to see and lay out a path. That way, you won’t miss any schools or have to backtrack to find them, which will save a ton of energy.
- Talk to at Least One School Not on Your List. Don’t just look at the schools you think you’ll like or the ones your friends want to attend. If a school seems interesting, say hi. You’ve got reps from colleges across the country at your disposal.
- Don’t Rely on Memory. After you finish at each table, jot down the answers and your impressions so you can compare schools later. Everything blends together at these events—no matter how great your memory is.
4. For Bonus Points:
- Bring Your Parents. Really. I’m not saying that Mom and Dad should stand two inches away while you talk to the rep—this is your fair. But parents are another set of eyes and ears, which is helpful when there’s so much information to absorb. They can also get answers to their own questions, like financial aid. Afterwards, make plans as a family to grab a burger and discuss your impressions—it will help you sort out your thoughts.
5. When You Get Home:
- Organize your materials so you can find them when you need them.
Next Time: How to Talk to a Rep at a College Fair (and make a great impression while you do).
Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.