Last week I was traveling up, down, and across New Jersey to attend a variety of college fairs, and as I was watching students arrive by the busload, I thought to myself, “this seems really overwhelming!” So I am dedicating this blog post to navigating the college fair!
1. Know the schools
Whether it’s a national college fair or a local one, the hosting organization always posts the list of participating school in advance. Check the website to get the full list. If this is going to be your first fair, take a step to identify your priorities; is a specific location a requirement for you? Or, are you after the program of your dreams and you’ll go anywhere to find it? Visit the school websites to find out if they match your priorities. You can always visit the NACAC website to find a national college fair near you!
2. Make lists
Most fairs last about two hours and have hundreds of colleges and universities, which means you cannot visit every single booth. Use your priority matches to identify your must-sees. Then take the time, maybe even with your parents, to make a list of questions. They could either be general questions that you ask every school, or questions that are specific to each school.
Extra tip: even general questions should be more specific than “can you tell me about your school?” The answer to that question is “yes we can.” Try developing a question that will get you the information you’re looking for.
3. Plan to get and give information
Some fairs will require you to register in advance. NACAC fairs, or national college fairs, will use your registration information to make you a barcode. Counselors will scan this barcode and it will give us your name, address, and grade level so that we can send you more information. Smaller fairs will rely on the old-school inquiry card, where you must handwrite all of that information for every school that you are interested in. This is where I shout-out to the student that I met at the Monmouth County College Fair and share with you her genius: print your own address labels and stick them to the inquiry cards.
4. Ask for directions
At the large fairs they provide you with map as to which school is at which booth; bust out your list of priority schools and plan your route. If they do not provide you with a map, ask how they schools are arranged; is it alphabetical, by location, or random? Then go straight to your top schools. After you’ve spent time with them, feel free to explore, there might be a school you hadn’t considered before.
I hope you’re able to use these tips in a way that works for you!