6 Steps to Mastering a College Fair

by Bethany Goldszer | Last Updated: January 13, 2019

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A college fair is often overwhelming and intimidating. Hundreds of eager parents and students pack into a convention center. They rotate around the room to learn about what colleges all over the country have to offer. Attending a college fair is an opportunity to get to know schools, meet the admissions officers who represent them, and begin the journey of building a relationship that demonstrates your interest and fit for the college.

The unfortunate reality is that many families leave college fairs feeling unaccomplished. The lines are usually very long, making it difficult to speak with admissions officers. Instead, the focus becomes about grabbing as many glossy brochures as one can hold.

Continue reading for a list of action items — what you can do to make the most of a college fair.

Start with a College Fair Game Plan

Before the fair, get a list of colleges attending and highlight the college representatives that you want to meet. Do your research to help you speak to the particulars about the college (e.g., major of study, sports, activities, etc.) that pique your interest. Visit their websites and social media pages. Plan your route, starting with colleges in which you’re most interested and working your way to the ones you’re interested in the least.

Bring your resume

 All high school students should have a resume – a one-page snapshot of your academic profile, work experience, extracurricular activities, awards, and interests. Write and polish your resume and bring at least 30 copies to hand to admissions officers. Admissions officers will be impressed that you came prepared with a resume. Also, it gives them something to read while returning home on the plane. The resume can be added to your college file and will begin your trail of demonstrated interest.

Come with pre-printed personal contact information labels

Purchase adhesive address labels. On them, print your name, phone number, email, address, and high school and graduation year. Save time by sticking the labels to information request cards and sign-in sheets on college representatives’ tables.

Ask good questions

 When you meet college representatives, smile, shake hands, and introduce yourself. Give them your resume and explain your interest in this particular school. It is essential that you have questions to ask. Being prepared with questions shows your enthusiasm and excitement about the school. A rule of thumb is to avoid asking questions that can easily be found on their website. Sample questions include: My GPA and ACT or SAT scores are X and Y. Would I have a chance of admission with this academic profile?

✔️ What makes your school unique when compared to others?
✔️ I am interested in majoring in Z. What type of internship opportunities are available to students with this major?
✔️ What types of need-based and merit scholarships do you provide?

Collect email addresses

Before you leave the table, pick up college brochures and the college representative’s business card. You’ll need this to contact the representative immediately after the event to follow-up and ask additional questions.

Follow up immediately

 Immediately after the college fair, organize materials and notes on each college. Draft and send follow-up thank you emails to each college representative you met. Be sure to remind them who you are, perhaps something that you discussed that would stick out. Don’t forget to attach your resume and let them know about any plans you may have to visit the campus in the near future.

Conclusions + Next Steps

Navigating a college fair is an important first step in narrowing down your college list and something you can be proud of when done successfully. As a next step, you should download a list of questions to ask college representatives. Also, be sure to download a copy of these resume templates to send to your area admissions officer. Finally, access the College Fair Recap Worksheet.

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Bethany Goldszer is top college admissions and financial aid expert. She's been featured in HuffPost, USA Today, Newsday, Queens Gazette, and Official Black Wall Street & voted Best of Long Island. Faced with the overwhelming stress of applying, getting admitted to and financing her University of Chicago education, she started Stand Out College Prep LLC in 2012 so that no student or parent would have to go through this process alone. Over the last 15 years, Bethany has worked with over 1,500 students, helping them and their parents get into their top choice colleges and secure more than $20M in financial aid and scholarships. And each year, she continues to help more students stand out in the college admissions process and their parents navigate financial aid and scholarships.