Monday, October 30, 2017

Do’s and Don’ts: Advice for Attending a College Fair

Do's and Don'ts: Advice for Attending a College Fair

As a high school student (especially juniors and seniors), preparing for a college fair is important. For high school counselors, college resource counselors, and teachers, preparing students for a college fair is equally as important. As a former university admissions counselor, I can tell you I have seen and heard a lot of really immature things. My admissions colleagues and I could easily write a storybook. Let’s jump in…

First, determine what type of school you’re looking for; close to home or out of state, public or private, small, medium, or larger, religious affiliation, coed or not, residential or commuter, etc. The answers to these questions will help you decide which university representatives to talk to. Try out College Board’s College Search.

Second, be realistic about what majors you are interested in. If you don’t like math and science, then a degree in biology or pre-med is not a good fit. Do your homework! If there is a career you are interested in, Google it and see what information you can learn. A quick search can usually provide an overview of the career; what a typical day looks like, educational requirements, work environment, salary, etc.

Third, know your GPA and class rank. It helps admissions counselors have a detailed conversation about admission requirements with you. If you don’t know this information, stop by your high school counselors or college resource counselors’ office.

Rule #1…

Don’t be disrespectful to university representatives. Often times they are the ones making decisions on your admission status and can greatly influence the outcome.

Do have an engaging conversation about items not found in the brochure (i.e. culture of the university, best type of admissions candidate, etc.). Get the representative’s business card and follow up with a thank you email. This little extra effort goes a long way. I can count on 1 hand the number of times I was thanked after a college fair (by email or note) and I remember all their names.

Don’t ask if you can major in sports or girls/guys. It’s not funny even though you may think it’s cool. It shows immaturity.

Do ask about particular majors you are interested in (research ahead of time or scan the university brochure). If you are interested in sports, ask about the teams, the potential to be on one, or even talk about intramural and club teams.

Don’t let your parents/guardians do all the talking or look to them to respond when a representative asks you a question. It’s great they are attending the college fair with you, but you are going to be an adult soon and have to speak for yourself.

Do have a conversation with them ahead of time to determine what information is important to find out and be prepared to ask those questions of the representative. I’m not saying parents shouldn’t ask questions, but they should never dominate the conversation.

Don’t ask “Why should I go here?” Representatives don’t know what you are looking for in a college or university and this provides them no clues at what information you are seeking.

Do ask specific questions like, “What sets your university apart from others?” or “What does __ degree offer, that other universities with the same degree may not?” or “I’m interested in __ career, what degree would help me get there?”

Don’t ask if it’s a party school. Again, not funny even if you think it is.

Do ask about co-curricular activities such as student organizations, study abroad programs, honors college, whether the school is a commuter campus or not, or what resources/services are available on campus (i.e. recreation center, student union, athletic events).

Don’t steal pens and other giveaways from the table. Even though you think you’re being slick, representatives see you. Plus they may be running low and you just took their last pen.

Do have a conversation with the representative about their institution and then ask if you may take a pen or giveaway. Most of the time they are more than willing to give you one of each!

Don’t ask “Do you have financial aid?” Yes, schools offer financial aid. This question doesn’t provide you valuable information about financial aid.

Do ask specifics about aid like “What process do you use for financial aid?” or “When is the best time for me to apply for scholarships?” or “How many students receive some form of financial assistance at your university (grants, loans, scholarship, etc.)?”

Other questions to ask university representatives:

When are application deadlines?

When do you recommend applying?

How long does the typical application process take?

What do you recommend doing first after being accepted? (i.e. apply for housing, submit FAFSA, meet with an academic advisor, etc.)

I hope this guide helps you get started and prepares you for your first college fair. As a former admissions counselor, I can tell you the individuals behind the tables are passionate about helping students who want to help themselves. Give us the ability (through engaging conversation) to do so! Don’t pass up the perfect opportunity to make a good impression. Until next post…xoxo Becca

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