• Dr. Thom

How to College Fair


Photo Credit: IACAC 2018

One of the greatest traditions in the college admissions process - the college fair - is starting to come back from the COVID-19 pandemic. High schools and cities across the country are beginning to organize these opportunities for prospective students to speak with representatives from various colleges.


Through my career as a college admissions representative, I can confidently say that I have spent more time behind a table standing in a “cafegymatorium” than most people my age. That being said, I really enjoyed college fairs. College fairs are great opportunities for students and families to interact with a ton of colleges in a short period of time, and to also get some nice college swag in the process (pennants, booklets, notepads).


Here are our top tips for getting the most out the college fair near you:


Ask better questions


Most of the information about the college, including the admissions process, enrollment, and majors, are all available on a website somewhere, so what’s the benefit of a college fair in the first place? Answer: to facilitate human interaction with representatives from the college. Don’t waste that opportunity by asking about facts that you can easily find.


What NOT to ask at a college fair:


  • “Do you have a [insert name] major?”

  • “What is your pre-[med, law, optometry, pharmacy . . . ] like?”

  • “What does my gpa need to be to get into your school?”

  • “Can I have this pen?” (By the way, admissions reps are sensitive about their pens; do not take their pens. Trust me on this one)


Instead, focus your questions that get at the vibe of a college, such as:


  • “Tell me what [insert name of town that the college is in] is like?” OR “What is your favorite season in [town name]?” OR “What is your favorite thing about [town name]?

  • “What do you like best about [college name]?”

  • “What is the typical student like at [college name]?”

  • “Is there a big tradition at [college name] that you really like?”


These kinds of questions generate more thoughtful answers from representatives who are constantly fielding the fact-based questions. If you are getting responses that start with “Oh, that’s a good question,” you know you are on the right track.


Cast a wide net


Once you are at a college fair, you will quickly see that some of the colleges in attendance are busier and more popular than others. Take advantage of that opportunity to engage with schools that may not be on your list. The reps at these schools will be able to spend more time with you and you never know, it may spark enough interest to continue investigating after the fair is over. Again, the benefit of attending a college fair is to interact with a range of schools.


If you do have colleges that you are very interested in, then sure, go ahead and wait in the line to speak with the rep, but don’t neglect the opportunity to learn about other colleges as well. If a college fair offers the opportunity to attend classroom sessions featuring one school (or a group of schools) certainly take advantage of that as well.


Be judicious with your data


One of the benefits for the colleges in attending these fairs is that they can gather information from interested students which helps in their recruiting efforts. Some colleges will have contact cards that you can complete, others will ask you to visit a website to complete an interest form. Some college fairs even have barcodes for students to use that allows colleges to scan your information right into their marketing databases. Whatever the method of gathering your information, please be aware that most colleges will send you a lot of communication, like A LOT. So, unless you are cool with that, do not share your information with a school you are not genuinely interested in.


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Most of all, have fun with the process. The representatives from the college love what they do, and are genuinely interested in answering your questions. That’s why they attend in the first place. Ask good questions, take good notes, have fun, and remember, bring your own pen.


Not working with us yet? Feeling stressed by the college search process? Let's chat.

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