College fairs are great for students and parents just starting to think about the college search. They give you the opportunity to learn about many different colleges at the same time. However, college fairs can get really overwhelming if you go in expecting too much.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of College Fairs:
- Don’t expect to talk to people at each booth – If you stop to talk at each booth, you are going to have information overload before you even make it all the way down one aisle. Stop and talk only at colleges you or your child already has interest in, not those you have never heard of.
- Gathering information to take home should be your main goal – Pick up lots of brochures, take them home, and sort them into piles like “interested,” “not interested,” and “maybe.” These can help you get to the next step in the college search and decide which schools to investigate further. Put the “interested” and “maybe” schools on a college search spreadsheet.
- Focus on the basics – For booths you stop and talk at, focus on the basic questions like “how many years of science are required for admission?”, “what’s the typical ACT score range for admitted students?”, and “when are your scheduled visit days?” While all of this information can be found on the college website with some digging, the reps are there to provide fast answers. If you have more complex questions, get contact information for the admissions rep and call or email.
- Think “demonstrated interest” – If there is a school your student is definitely interested in, have him or her stop at the booth, talk to the rep, and share his/her contact information.
- Selectively pick the right college fairs – Some fairs attract colleges all over the country while others only attract regional schools. Pick the right college fair according to how far your student wants to travel from home. The big national college fairs are great if your student wants to keep their options wide open. Students who only want to go a few hours from home will be better served through college fairs that offer a large selection of regional schools.
Again, college fairs can be a great first step in the college search and can get your student excited about looking at schools. Just be sure to maximize the opportunity by not getting into too much detail at this point.