College fairs are wonderful opportunities to virtually visit in one place a wide range of colleges and talk to their representatives – sometimes the very people who will be reviewing your application! College consultant Jilly Warner of College Goals recently shared her tips for college fair visits with attendees of the US College Day fair presented by the US UK Fulbright Commission in London. Here are some of Jilly’s top tips:
– Prepare sign-up stickers: Before the fair, prepare either large sticker labels or a postcard with your essential details noted. These should include your full name (no nicknames) and mailing address, your date of birth, phone number, full name of your school, expected graduation month and year, email address (one with your real name, no nicknames or jokes), academic interests, expected college enrollment date.
– Then save sign-up sheet time: At your desired college tables, either affix your label onto their information sheet or hand the representative your card. That way, you can spend your time talking to the rep instead of filling out a sign-in sheet.
– Check out the college listings ahead of time! Know which colleges you want to visit and zero in on them quickly. Understand that the most well-known colleges are likely to have a flood of students at first. If you see a line, return to your faves later when the line dissipates, but if it doesn’t, go to the front and get your sticker in place or your card handed over. Listen respectfully to the conversations in progress – guaranteed you will learn something important and the college representative will note your quiet concentration and will likely turn towards you. As someone who has been behind that table a great deal, I can assure you that we love to see an interested student politely waiting his/her turn and will respond accordingly.
– Dress appropriately: Don’t wear shirts with offensive messages or graphics.
– Bring a pen and a notebook.
– Come prepared with good questions. Be original and ask for information that is important to you. Show your interest and knowledge.
– Get involved: Introduce yourself to the college representative, making eye contact. Shake hands firmly; hand over your information card or put your prepared label onto their information card. Get the rep’s name; use it in conversation! Most will wear a nametag as a reminder. If it’s not apparent, ask for their role at the university.
– Do not look down at your paper filled with questions. Ask your questions with confidence and a strong voice. Note the answers in your head; don’t take that moment to write things down … talk! Admissions people love talking about their university; listen and respond.
– Think about possible majors before the fair. Most reps will ask you about your academic interests. If you have done your homework, you will have a few majors of interest and you will KNOW which colleges offer which majors. Don’t waste time asking about things that don’t exist!
– Don’t ‘hog’ the college but don’t walk away if you are interested and engaged; simply step aside but remain to listen to the next conversation…who knows, it may be one of your other questions!
– Thanks and card: When you have satisfied your curiosity and had your questions answered, thank the representative with a final warm handshake and big smile and GET HIS OR HER BUSINESS CARD!
– Jot notes: Step away and make a few brief notes on the back of that business card to remind you of the conversation. Keep it safe in a bag you’ve brought with you.
– Go wide and go deep: With your list of top colleges and top questions in hand, as you make the rounds, keep your eyes open to other colleges that may be of interest. If there is a long line at the one you want to chat with, step to the adjacent table/s just to explore the unknown – you never know what you may learn about!
– Ask about majors: If you haven’t decided on a major, ask your college/s how they support and/or advise Undecided students. Being Undecided or Undeclared is a perfectly fine place to start, but know more about how the university works with or views undecided students. Ask when you are required to declare a major.
– Other good questions:
What is the ethos of your university?
What are some of the most notable student clubs and organizations?
What are weekends like on campus?
Do most students live on campus? Are upper classmen guaranteed campus housing?
Are kosher/vegetarian/organic food options easily available?
How accessible are faculty? How could I make an appointment with a professor?
What majors are the most popular or is the school most well-known for?
What is the average class size?
How many classes are taught by full faculty as opposed to graduate students or teaching assistants?
– Follow up at home: Take a moment to jot down your colleges and some specific information about each of them that has relevance to you.
Then take out your business cards and send a personalized email of thanks to each representative you spoke with. This will become part of your file, may be useful down the road, and gives you a good contact for more information, if that college becomes your top choice!
– HAVE FUN: Enjoy the excitement and vibe of the college fair. You will learn so much by walking around, chatting with a wide variety of college representatives and/or alumni. Take part and make a point of learning as much as you can.
Jilly Warner has over a dozen years’ experience in college admissions with a special focus on international admissions. Formerly Coordinator of International Admissions at The University of Vermont, Jilly applies her wide ranging experience on both sides of the admissions desk to helping students make smart choices and achieve their college goals. Learn more about College Consultant Jilly Warner and College Goals at www.collegegoals.com.
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About the editor: Karen Berlin Ishii, a graduate of Brown University, has 25+ years of experience as a teacher and test prep tutor. Karen teaches students in New York and internationally via Skype for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, ISEE, SSAT, SHSAT, IELTS, TOEFL and GRE, and also offers tutoring in reading, writing and math. Learn more about Karen at karenberlinishii.com.