Admit it: ‘Tis the season for college fairs. These fairs, such as the ones sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling or Colleges That Change Lives, provide sophomores, juniors and seniors an ample foretaste of the upcoming college admissions season. For Raleigh-Durham families, the NACAC will host a college fair on March 19th and CTCL will host a fair on August 13th. Whether it is a national fair at a downtown convention center or a regional fair sponsored by a local high school, the fairs are usually crowded, high-energy and sometimes intimidating places. Yet, college fairs are critical events for students to make contact with schools that are potential fits in the college admissions process. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer the following strategies that prepare families to maximize the benefits of their college fair attendance:
Prepare a list. Before attending a college fair, consult with several college guides. There are many reputable sources including Baron’s Profile of American Colleges, The College Board’s Big Future, The Fiske Guide to Colleges, Princeton Review’s Best 376 Colleges and Yale Daily News’ Insiders Guide to Colleges. From these resources, identify schools that interest you and meet your criteria for academic, financial and social fit. Discuss these choices with your parents, your guidance counselor and your educational consultant. Once your list is completed, verify who will be attending the fair, this will allow you to navigate the fair efficiently as you can obtain a floor plan and highlight the colleges identified without wandering aimlessly through the booths.
Prepare to make contact. Introduce yourself, shake hands with the admissions representative and request a business card and any pertinent information the school has to offer. Since most college fairs register participants digitally, schools will have a way to capture your name, address and e-mail via preprinted barcode. If the fair you are attending is not digitally equipped, make an adhesive label with your name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, high school and graduation year. Do not add your GPA, rank in class or SAT scores, as some admissions officers will think this to be gauche. Your time at the college fair should be spent engaging colleges in dialogue and not filling out forms.
Prepare Questions. Admissions officers appreciate questions, especially if those questions cannot be answered from a quick visit to a school’s website. Making a prepared list of questions regarding academics, social activities and financial aid will prompt your conversation. You should also take notes as these will be helpful in finalizing a list of schools to which you will apply. When asking questions, take your time and remember to look the admission officers in the eye. Some sample questions may include:
What are some traditions unique to your campus?
Are the SAT II’s required or recommended?
How are standardized test scores read in the admissions office?
Martha Kimmel, International Admission Counselor at Furman University adds:
I’m always impressed with the students who intentionally come to my table, introduce themselves with a handshake and ask about a specific program on which they have done some background research. It is best that the student initiates the conversation rather than the parent. Of course, we are happy to answer mom and dad’s questions, too, but they are not the ones applying!
Students who demonstrate interest in academic programs and co-curricular opportunities make an impression as they are demonstrating they potentially will contribute as much as they gain from them by being active participants. If the student’s first question is about the dining hall food or the dorm rooms, I’m less impressed (though those are great follow up questions).
College fairs are an essential part of the college admissions process as they allow colleges and students to make initial contact. Remember, college representatives love it when students come to the college fairs prepared and admissions officers will assess your personal profile by how you conduct yourself during these introductions.
Crisp Consulting + Coaching has information regarding admission, education and school options on our Facebook page, Google+, Twitter feed and YouTube Channel.
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning