College fairs are a great resource for students at all stages of the college application process. For high school seniors, college fairs are a convenient way to meet admissions counselors at schools you are interested in, and have your pressing questions answered in person. As a high school junior (or sophomore!), college fairs are a great way for you to learn about several schools all at once.
Fortunately, many high schools or school districts host their own college fairs. You should ask your college counselor about any upcoming college fairs this fall, and see if s/he has a list of schools that will be attending so you can arrive prepared.
If your high school doesn’t have a college fair, or if you want access to a larger group of schools, you could also check out the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) Fall College Fairs. NACAC offers numerous college fairs around the country throughout the fall, starting September 16 in Birmingham, Alabama through November 7 in Washington, DC. National College Fairs are huge, often with hundreds of colleges and thousands of students and parents visiting. They may be crowded, but they offer resources that many smaller college fairs cannot. For instance, National College Fairs often offer workshops and presentations on admissions and financial aid, in addition to having a Counseling Center on site where you can meet with counselors.
What if there isn’t a National College Fair nearby and your school doesn’t host a fair? Your counselor may know of some college fairs organized locally by city or region. You can also reach out to the colleges you are most interested in to find out if they are going to any college fairs in your area.
So, how should you behave at a college fair? Follow these suggestions and you’ll do just fine.
1) Look presentable! No need to dress up, but you should definitely avoid showing up in your gym clothes. Remember, when a fair is at your school, you are representing your school. It’s best to leave a positive impression.
2) Do your research. If you’re planning to see a particular college, do some preliminary research beforehand so you don’t end up asking questions you could have easily answered on your own through a quick scan of their website. Some examples of questions to avoid: Do you offer _____ major? What is the middle 50% range of your SAT or ACT scores? Where is your school located? What are your application deadlines? Admissions representatives prefer questions that get more at the substance and character of the school than their Frequently Asked Questions.
3) This is not an interview. A college fair is not your opportunity to chat with your favorite college for 30 minutes while a line of students builds up behind you. You’ll want to come up to the table, introduce yourself to the representative, ask your question (or two), pick up some materials, and move on.
4) Have an open mind. You probably just want to see a few specific colleges – probably ones you and your parents, friends, and siblings have heard of. That’s understandable, but we encourage you to be open- minded at college fairs, and learn about some colleges that you may not be as familiar with.
We know you’re busy this fall, but we hope you will take the time to attend some college fairs and jumpstart your college search.