Faring Well at College Fairs and National College Fairs FAQs
As you walk through the big double doors, the noise is overwhelming. People cluster around what seems like hundreds of tables, filling out cards, leafing through brochures, and competing for the attention of nicely dressed admission representatives. This could be it, you think. You could find your dream college in this very room.
College fairs are an exciting chance to talk to the people in the know. Admission representatives from a variety of colleges are all gathered in one place, just waiting to answer your questions. But it's easy to get caught up in the crowds and confusion. Soon you're criss-crossing the room (or many rooms), stopping at any booth that catches your eye or seems popular. When that happens, you end up with lots of pretty brochures, but not a lot of clear impressions about which colleges you may be interested in. Making the most of a college fair means planning your strategy before you enter those double doors.
Making a list and checking it--well, you know
"Treat a college fair like a buffet dinner," advises Susan Hallenbeck, director of undergraduate admission at Saint Leo University (FL). "There will be more there than you can possibly take in, but then again, not everything is to your taste."
Experienced buffet diners know that it's best to scope out their choices before they start filling their plate. Savvy students can do the equivalent by looking over a list of college fair participants before the fair. Choose the colleges you most want to find out more about. If you have time, research these colleges by reading information in your guidance office or by checking out guidebooks or Web sites.
"Know what you want to find out at the fair," says Paul Marthers, director of admission at Oberlin College (OH). Write up a short list of questions to ask admission representatives. To compare several schools, plan on asking the same questions at each table.
The questions you ask should be unique to your interests and not easily found in standard college materials. "The college fair is a good time to talk person-to-person with the representative of that school," says Janet Helfers, guidance counselor at Mariemont High School (OH). "Your job is to think of good questions."
So cross out the questions like, "How many people are in the freshman class?" Instead, ask what the two or three most popular majors are (that can give you a good idea of the main interests of the majority of the students). If you have a particular major in mind, don't ask "How good is major X?" No college representative will tell you that a program is bad. Instead, ask how many students take that major; what research faculty members are involved in (and the opportunities for undergraduates to participate in it); or what courses you would take your first year in a particular major. Students who are undecided should ask about what services and support are available to help them explore various majors.
Other things you can ask about: extracurricular activities, what kinds of students the college is looking for, what percentage of students receive financial aid, and other concerns unique to your interests and situation.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. © 2008 National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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