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College Admissions: 4 Ways To Get The Most Out Of College Fairs

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


College fairs are coming up, and they're a true opportunity if you take advantage. Here's how. Photo: Howard County Library System/flickr

The fall college fair season is upon us. School gyms and convention centers will be buzzing with parents and students exploring options and gathering information. It can be overwhelming however, and many

times, families walk away with little value from these events. Here are some tips to help you glean the most you can from a college fair:


1. Do your homework in advance

Don’t walk into a fair and wander aimlessly. Review the list of colleges that will be present. Then, go online and visit the college websites in the geographic locations that interest you. Compare your GPA and SAT/ACT scores to the average of accepted students on resource sites like www.collegedata.com. If your school has Naviance, review the scattergrams for the colleges you are interested in, and make certain that students in your range have been accepted. Plan to visit the information tables for 2-3 stretch schools, 2-3 reasonable schools, and 2-3 backups. Don’t waste time at college tables that are too far above or below your range, or that don’t have the majors you are interested in.

2. Prepare 3-5 questions for the Reps

Ask about your intended major, internships, which clubs are most popular, study abroad opportunities, Greek life, financial aid or sports recruiting. Whatever pertains to your college interests should be the focus of your questions. Remember to pick up a course catalog and view book for your top choice schools.

3. Collect business cards

Often, the person staffing the table will be the regional admissions person who will eventually read your application. So, ask the rep for a business card in case you have any follow-up questions. This may also allow you to develop a relationship at your favorite colleges with the rep—who will then remember your name when decision time comes. Don’t forget to stop by and say hello when the rep visits your school later this year, or when you go on a campus visit to the college.

4. Watch for specialized fairs for performing arts

There are several unique venues for students interested in visual or performing arts. It may be a bit of a drive to attend, but these fairs are usually worth the effort. Students get an opportunity to learn about music or theatre audition processes in depth, and artists may even be able to have an initial portfolio review. If you do want to pursue a creative major in college, it’s very important to begin the admissions cycle early because your application materials will involve much more work than the average student.

Keep in mind that college fairs are a great way to introduce students to colleges and energize them about opportunities. However, fairs do NOT replace a campus visit. Touring the campus and attending an information session is critical for any college within a 6 or 8 hour drive. You simply can’t assess if a college is right for you, and the college won’t take you seriously, if you don’t see it in person.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com


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