College fairs, held in cities across the country during the fall and spring, provide an excellent opportunity for college-bound students to ask questions, gain information, and browse potential new schools.
Whether a fair consists of a dozen local colleges manning booths in a high school gymnasium or a convention center full of schools from across the nation, serious students can use this unique opportunity to quickly and efficiently compare colleges, learn about different programs, and discover options previously unknown to them, if they arrive properly prepared, of course.Plan ahead
An unnamed director of undergraduate admissions once said to treat a college fair like a buffet: though you may want to try everything, remember that there will be more than you can possibly take in. What’s more, if you attempt to sample all that this buffet has to offer, you will wind up with a very sore stomach, as well as a sore head and feet.
A well-attended college fair is as crowded as a carnival, and just as difficult to navigate. Many students find themselves lost in the confusion and waste time crisscrossing, backtracking, or revisiting the same booths. Caught in the flow of the human tide, these students may also find themselves gravitating towards the more popular stands, regardless of whether or not these colleges are of any academic interest to them.
Nobody wants to be the student who, at the end of the day, has an armful of brochures but a head full of unanswered questions. To that end, before attending a college fair, do what every good student does best: study.
If the college fair is a buffet, websites like the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)’s http://www.nacacnet.org is a good place to see what dishes will be offered. Before attending, you can use this site to look up what schools will have booths. From those, select a few colleges that catch your interest. Use resources like College Search (http://collegesearch.collegeboard.com/search/index.jsp) to narrow your list of potential schools based on specific characteristics, such as majors.Golden opportunity
After finding some schools you know will be at your fair, spend time browsing the school’s website to see if answers to any of your questions can be found there. If not, jot your questions down and ask representatives at the fair.
Remember, a college-bound student can never have too many questions. Mick Amundson-Geisel, a counselor at Chaska High School in Chaska, Minn., adds, “Having five standard questions to ask every person is a good way to compare what college a student might want to do deeper research on.”
Remember: this is a golden opportunity to talk directly with admissions counselors. Take advantage of it by asking questions unique to yourself and your interests.
Just as one needs a knife and fork when eating at a buffet, a college fair attendee needs the proper equipment to make the most of his or her time. As you will certainly be taking notes on schools, a pen and notebook are a necessity. If available, a map of the fair is also handy, as it should help cut down on time spent trying to find specific booths.
If your local fair does not offer pre-registration, bringing labels with your name and address pre-printed on them will save you time when filling out information cards. Lastly, a bag of some kind will not only assist in holding your pen, notebook, map, and labels, but will also make it easier to carry all of the pamphlets you will be given.
“The best four years of your life” are just around the corner. If you want to get the most out of your secondary education, make sure you know your options.