student holding backpack
student holding backpack

Navigating College Fairs: A Comprehensive Guide

It’s the start of the school year, which means college admissions representatives are hitting the road to visit students in their own backyards. Opportunities to meet with admissions representatives are becoming increasingly important due to the importance of Demonstrated Interest in the admissions process. College Fairs and high school visits provide students with the opportunity to learn more about a particular institution and connect with the person who will ultimately read their application. 

(Wondering how prepared you are for the college application process? Take our free Application Readiness Assessment now and find out!) 

College Fairs allow high school students to explore various colleges and universities all in one place. While helpful, these events can also be overwhelming if you go without a plan. But with the right approach and some preparation, you can make the most out of your experience. 

What is a College Fair?

A College Fair is an event where representatives from multiple colleges and universities gather in one location to showcase their institutions to prospective students. These fairs allow high school students to interact with college representatives, gather information about different schools, and start building connections that will aid in their college decision-making process.

What to Expect When Attending a College Fair:

  • Diverse Representation: College Fairs bring together a wide range of institutions, from large universities to small liberal arts colleges, both public and private. This diversity allows you to explore various academic programs, campus cultures, and locations.
  • Admissions Representatives: Each college will have its own table staffed by admissions representatives. These individuals are there to answer your questions, provide information about their school, and offer insights into what makes their institution unique. Plus, you can take advantage of some important facetime with admissions!
  • Informational Materials: Colleges often provide brochures, guidebooks, and other materials that highlight their academic programs, extracurricular activities, campus facilities, and more. Be sure to gather these materials for later reference.
  • Workshops and Seminars: Many college fairs also offer workshops on topics such as financial aid, the application process, athletic recruiting, and college life. These sessions can provide valuable insights to families just starting the process. 

If you can find a list of colleges attending a fair prior to the event, it can be helpful to make a game plan. Make a short list of schools you’d like to speak with and questions you’d like to ask. If you can’t find a list of attendees, or are just starting your search and unsure of which colleges interest you, that’s ok, too! Take the first few minutes of the fair to get a lay of the land. Colleges are often set up in alphabetical order. Walk the fair to see which schools are in attendance and make note of any booths you’d like to circle back to. If you’re really unsure, just pick one! You might find you’re interested in learning more about a college you never knew existed. 

(Wondering how prepared you are for the college application process? Take our free Application Readiness Assessment now and find out!) 

Pro tip: often the more popular colleges have long lines; aim to visit with those schools that are less busy.  You’ll have more quality time with an admissions rep to really make an impression and to learn something valuable about a school. 

Questions to Ask Admissions Representatives:

College Fairs can be overwhelming, crowded, and noisy. It can also be hard to know what to ask. Seasoned Admissions Representatives will tell you that “Tell me about your college” and “Is your _____ major a good program?” are very common questions, but don’t leave the best first impression. You want to show genuine interest and enthusiasm about the institution by asking thoughtful questions. This also means asking the questions yourself, and not leaving the talking up to mom or dad!

You also do not want to monopolize the admissions counselor’s time. There are often many students trying to speak with them, so you’ll want to stick to 1-2 questions if there’s a line of other students waiting. You can (and should!) ask the admission rep for their business card and follow up with more specific questions and a thank you after the fair. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to fill out a contact card or give your information to the admission rep so that they have a record of your conversation and interest! Some fairs will have QR codes you can scan to provide your information.

Academic Programs:

  • Does your college offer any signature programs or unique majors?
  • How does your institution help students select a major? Are there programs for students who are undecided?
  • Are there opportunities for interdisciplinary studies?
  • Can you provide examples of recent student research or projects?

Campus Life:

  • What kinds of students are happiest at your school?
  • What is the campus community like? Is it more collaborative or competitive?
  • How do students typically spend their weekends?
  • Do students live primarily on or off campus?

Admissions Process:

  • What criteria do you consider during the admissions review?
  • Do you consider major selection when reviewing an application? 
  • Are there any unique application requirements or deadlines?
  • How important are standardized test scores in the admissions process?
  • Are there merit-based scholarships for incoming students? Do they require a separate application?

Internship and Career Opportunities:

  • How does the college support students in finding internships and job opportunities?
  • Are there strong connections with local industries or companies?

Attending a College Fair can be an incredibly valuable experience for high schoolers looking to explore their higher education options. By knowing what to expect and asking thoughtful questions, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions about your future. Remember to approach each interaction with an open mind and enthusiasm, as these connections could shape your educational journey for years to come.

(Wondering how prepared you are for the college application process? Take our free Application Readiness Assessment now and find out!)