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College Fairs: How They Work (and How to Make Them Work for You)

One struggle many rising high school seniors face is determining which colleges are truly right for them – and there are a lot to choose from. To narrow your choices – and to learn more about schools that aren’t already on your radar – you might want to consider attending a college fair.

Why They’re Important for You

In an article for U.S. News & World Report, professional tutor Bradford Holmes explains that many high school students “do not fully grasp how to best use college fairs to ensure they stand out from the crowd and improve their college applications come admissions season.”

By giving you direct access to alumni and staff, college fairs can help you get a personalized view of whether a school is a good fit for you. They’re also helpful in that they often connect you with people responsible for reviewing applications.

How to Prepare for a College Fair

Look at the list of colleges that will be present at the fair, and make a list of the ones whose booths you definitely want to visit. See names you don’t recognize? Look them up! Just because they aren’t on your radar yet doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. You’ll also want to check the fair’s full schedule to see if there are any info sessions you’d like to attend.

Write a list of questions you’ll want to ask admissions representatives at booths or during Q&A sessions. It’s perfectly fine to ask about general information – like course offerings – but posing more personalized questions (that can’t easily be answered by a visit to a school’s website) will be the best use of your time.

What to Do While You’re There

“Your job at a college fair is not only to collect information about colleges, but to make a good impression upon admissions representatives, and colleges prefer applicants who take the process seriously,” writes Monikah Schuschu for CollegeVine.

This means you’ll want to dress and conduct yourself professionally, and to come prepared with supplies like notepads, pens, and a tote bag or backpack so you can take notes and collect marketing materials with ease. When speaking with representatives, ask questions from the list you’ve prepared. If you think you may want to apply to a certain school, exchange contact information.

What to Do After Attending

If possible, stay in contact with the admissions representatives you spoke with. Send thank-you notes and express your interest in applying. Reach out with additional questions if necessary.

Finally, writes Holmes for U.S. News & World Report, “If you choose to apply to a school that you encountered at the fair, make sure to mention the role that the fair or the school representative played in your decision.... Given the current competitiveness of college admissions, every advantage counts, no matter how small it may be.”

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