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How to Prepare for a College Fair

a student walks through a college fair carrying a tote bag


College fairs are a great opportunity to meet with representatives of many schools all at once. But you will get more benefits from a fair if you do a little preparation. These tips will help you prepare before the fair and make the most of your experience.

First, create a list of colleges and universities of interest to you. Most fairs post a list of participating schools. Focus on what’s most important to you, such as location, majors, size, public vs. private, urban vs. suburban vs. rural, dormitory vs. fraternity/sorority, single-sex vs. coed, financial aid options and religious affiliation.

Next, compile a list of questions for the representatives. Do some research about each of the colleges on your list, so you can ask good questions. Visit the admissions office section of each school's website. The best question to ask is, “What makes your school special or unique?” Also ask about costs and financial aid.

Some fairs provide students with badges that can be scanned by the representatives. Others ask students to fill out an information card for each school of interest. To prepare for the latter, bring printed labels with your name, address, telephone number, email address, high school, year of graduation, majors of interest and any other special interests.

This will save you a lot of time at the fair. If your email address is inappropriate, make a professional email address, such as one based on your name. Also, bring a bag for all the literature you will collect at the fair.

If your parents will tag along, split up. Tell your parents that you can cover more ground that way, and compare notes later. You will be more comfortable without your parents looking over your shoulder.

When you meet a representative at their booth, introduce yourself and smile. Tell them why you are interested in their school. Ask all of your questions, then ask for the representative’s business card. If they don’t have a card, write down their name and email address. Then gather the brochures and marketing materials.

Take notes immediately after leaving their booth. The colleges and universities will tend to blur together, so it is best to take notes after each one. After you visit all of the schools on your list, explore randomly. You might find a school of interest to you that you had not previously considered.

Also, attend information sessions about the application process and financial aid. It is an opportunity to get expert advice and answers to your questions. After the fair, send a thank-you note to each of the representatives and ask any additional questions. This is why it was important to ask for their business cards.

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