College fairs give you the chance to make your initial “visit” to colleges without going far from home. They usually take place in the early fall and spring. At the fair, you’ll find out about academic programs, campus activities, financial aid, and admissions requirements and have the opportunity to talk briefly with college representatives.
- Make a point to talk with the college representatives—they want to engage with you and answer your questions.
- Take notes.
- Sign up to be on the mailing lists at colleges that interest you.
- Pick up brochures from colleges that interest you and take them home to review.
- Attend information sessions, if available.
Be sure to go to the fair prepared to maximize your time. Bring paper and pen to take notes, and a list of questions.
Some questions you may want to ask:
- What are the college’s strengths?
- What kind of extra academic help is available?
- If you are the first in your family to go to college: do you have any programs for students who are the first in their family to go to college?
- What majors are the most popular?
- What are the admissions requirements?
- What scholarships and financial aid are available?
- What qualities should prospective students have?
- When must I choose a major?
- What is the average student-to-teacher ratio?
- Is student housing guaranteed all four years?
- How are roommates selected?
- What programs are offered to help students adjust to college life?
- What other student services are offered (tutoring, career counseling, study groups)?
- Please estimate the percentage of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study awarded in your financial aid packages.
- How many freshmen return for their sophomore year?
If you’ve had an in-depth conversation with a college representative, stay in touch. Send a thank you for the time and information you received.
College fairs give you the chance to make your initial “visit” to colleges without going far from home. They usually take place in the early fall and spring.
Tips for making the most of your college fair visit
Planning ahead with these seven tips can help you make the most of your time at a college fair.
Organize before you go
Review a list of the participating colleges, usually available online or at your high school guidance office. Choose those in which you are especially interested. Make another list of secondary colleges to check out if you have time.
Prepare your questions ahead of time
Review the colleges’ websites and prepare questions you would like to ask. College fairs are fairly crowded and you may not have time to get all of your questions answered, so choose questions not easily found on the schools’ websites.
Print address labels to bring with you
Save time filling out college interest cards and pre-print labels with your name, address, email address, your high school, when you expect to start college and the major(s) that interest you. Some high school guidance offices provide personal bar codes with this information—check with your school.
When you arrive, pick up a map, if available, so you know the layout of colleges. Some college fairs don’t provide a map but organize colleges alphabetically. Target the colleges you want to visit so you don’t waste time backtracking. Bags are often available at the door for collecting brochures.
Try to arrive early
Early arrival allows you to move at a more leisurely pace. Also, the later you arrive, the more crowded it gets and the less likely the college reps will have as much time to spend with you.
After the fair, review each college’s materials carefully. If there’s something you really like about the school, highlight it and put a sticky note on the page so you can find it later. If you have a question about something you read, write it down and put it on the top of the pile. If you can’t find the answer in the brochures, check out their website. If you still have questions, send an email to the admissions representative to get more information.
Once you’ve reviewed everything, create a file for each college that still interests you so you can add any additional information you receive from them. You may discover that some of the schools you were considering aren’t really good for you. Weed out the brochures of colleges that aren’t a good fit and bring them to your guidance office to share with other students. A personal college file will become an important resource when making your college choice.
To find a college fair in your area, check with your high school counselor.
—Courtesy of Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC)