By: Mia Myklebust and Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.
The college fair is an exciting but somewhat intimidating event. I remember being in high school and worrying half to death about making a good impression. Don’t psyche yourself out! Admissions officers are friendly people who are just looking to get to know you a bit better. Remember, college admissions is a mutually selective process. These reps want to impress you just as much as you want to impress them! So put on a smile, a nice outfit, be yourself and follow these guidelines to have an awesome college fair experience.
Find your fair- Go online and find the college fair in your area. If you’re a Senior, there are fairs starting in September and going through the beginning of December. If you’re a Junior, think about checking out one of the fairs coming up in the spring of 2013.
Register online– Registering provides you with a barcode for you print out that the colleges can scan to get your information. This makes the system smooth and simple. Try to register the week before so you’re not scrambling to get signed up at the last minute. You want your college fair experience to be as stress-free as possible.
Don’t go alone—If it is at all possible, go with a parent or a friend (one friend is preferable, as more than that can be a distraction and might cause you to giggle/snicker). The reason for not going alone is simple: you will each hear and remember different pieces of the information. Since this day can be an information overload, it is best to have multiple ears at work.
Dress nicely— Wear something that is “business casual” not “workout clothes” nor “interview clothes”–you don’t need to look too serious. Girls could wear a nice skirt or pants and a blouse, nothing too over-the-top and keep it conservative, ladies! Boys could wear khakis or slacks and a button-up shirt, no ties. Again, you don’t need to be super dressy, just look like you care.
Take a backpack or bag—You will collect many flyers, pamphlets and applications and will want to have something to put them.
Show up early or on time— The fair usually lasts only 3-4 hours and you want to have as much leisure time as possible. Showing up on-time will ensure you have as much time as possible to talk to all the schools you’re already interested in, plus extra time to investigate other colleges that you might not have considered otherwise.
Take a list of schools in which you are interested—Have a preliminary list of schools ready. Research the list beforehand and decide upon your target schools to visit at the fair. At the door you will get a map, and in just a few simple moments you can chart an efficient course for yourself. Save your energy in every way you can, talking can take a lot out of you after four hours.
Do browse—Don’t pass a table just because it’s not on your list. Take your time and follow your curiosities. One of the main reasons to attend the fair is to explore new options and get new ideas about where to apply to college. Have conversations with reps not on your predetermined list, you might just be surprised by who you walk remembering.
Take your time—Don’t rush from booth to booth. Relax and have fun. This is part of the dreaming process! Shake hands, introduce yourself and make good eye contact—most teenagers won’t.
Talk—If you are with your parents, you need to be the one doing most of the talking. Parents need to try to listen and not talk as much. This can sometimes be a challenge for shy kids or talkative parents, but it’s very important to keep in mind. These reps are here to talk to you, it’s great to have your parents there to help you listen and provide moral support, but you need to do the talking.
Take notes—After you leave each table, jot down a few important points. This is VERY important because the schools may all start to sound alike at some point, and it can be difficult to separate them in your mind unless you have some key details. This can also be good for following up with reps you really connected with.
Stay several minutes at least—Peruse the literature and take something. Wait to ask a question. Talk to another student at the booth. Stay a few minutes at each table, don’t leave just because the booth is busy, wait your turn.
Ask some intelligent questions—This is especially important if you are terrifically interested in a particular school. You must look interested; just make sure you don’t come across as bizarre in your interest. “Fixation” is classified as bizarre. You need to look open minded and rational in your interest, not obsessive.The length of each of your conversations will vary. Don’t be worried if your conversation is brief, these men and women have hundreds of students to talk to, your job is to make a good impression in the time you do have by asking smart and relevant questions.
Some great questions to ask are:
What is the professor-student relationship like at your school?
What are the two strongest programs at your school?
What makes your school unique?
What kind of student would be happiest at your school?
May I schedule an interview?
Is it possible to schedule an overnight campus visit?
Do not monopolize the admission officer’s time—This is critical if the booth is very, very busy because you can actually make a bad impression if you seem insensitive. Remember to keep your conversation brief but intelligent. Nobody likes a ball (admissions officer) hog.
Look for booths that aren’t busy—You can have a great conversation with someone who is bored and you just might develop an interest in a school that you had never considered before. Branch out!
MAKE SURE TO SCAN YOU BARCODE— This will automatically ensure that your information is transferred to the school’s database so you will be included on their mailing list.
THANK THEM FOR THEIR TIME AND SMILE. Always be as polite as possible! This could be the only impression you get with a school, make it a good one. You can shake hands again when you say goodbye.
There you have it, kids! The big, scary college fair broken down in easy, manageable chunks. For more information about the college fair watch the vlog by guidance counselor Susanna Cerasuolo. Yay, college!