Too often students come up to the table, grab materials, maybe ask a generic question, and walk away. The hall is loud, crowded, and often hot. I find that most students are unprepared for the fair which means they ask basic questions that could have been answered with a quick Google search and I wind up repeating the same answer every time a new student comes up to the table.
So, what's my advice? It's simple--please do your research before coming to a fair. Here are 10 steps to a productive college fair:
1. Find out which colleges will be at the fair
2. Find out the basics on each college and determine if it's worth more investigation before the fair
3. Do some in depth investigation about a dozen or so schools of real interest to you. Find out about...
- the application process and deadlines
- the school's philosophy and community
- academic opportunities
- community opportunities (extracurriculars, community service, advising, athletics, arts, etc.)
- specific programs of interest to you (study abroad, pre-med/law/business, internship opportunities, etc.)
- Try to uncover some unique aspects about the school (like the D-plan for Dartmouth)
- What do you think distinguishes Dartmouth [or wherever] most from the other schools?
- If I'm interested in Astronomy [or whatever], what opportunities will I have at Dartmouth? (Please do NOT ask, "Do you have this major?")
- What advice do you have for completing my application? (only ask this to Admissions Officers; alumni may have ideas but they'll probably caution you that they don't read applications)
- I'm concerned about [whatever] at your school [after hearing it from a friend, reading it online, or whatever]. What's your perspective on this?
6. At the fair, visit the booths for the colleges you've done your in depth research on and start off by saying you're interested in the school and a few reasons why (so we get to know a little about you) and then ask your question.
7. Engage in a conversation with the Admissions Officer or Alumni but please also try to include other students in the conversation or be open to allowing others to listen in. There are typically lots of students who have no clue what to ask, so if you set an example and allow others to be part of your conversation, it'll be more productive for everyone
8. If the conversation is going on a little long and others are waiting, say, "Thank you for your time. I want to give others a chance, but would it be okay if I email you with any additional questions?"
9. As you look for your next college, note any colleges that catch your eye and use what you know of the other schools to ask informed questions about any new school.
10. Have fun, be patient, and don't be rude to other fair-goers.
I know that college fairs have traditionally been a time just to collect brochures--but if you do your research beforehand you'll make many college reps happy and quite possibly improve your chances of admission with your new-found knowledge. I imagine some colleagues may disagree with some of my advice or have other advice.
Do you have stories of how you made the most of a college fair?