College fairs offer the ideal at-home opportunity to familiarize yourself with your options and get to know the schools of your choice. Whether you are just starting to explore colleges or you are looking to get more detailed information on some schools, these events can be the perfect chance to get some research and legwork done without having to travel.

If you are not prepared, attending a college fair can be a bit intimidating. Especially if you don’t know what to expect. But rest assured, the recruiters are there to make you feel comfortable and help answer any questions you have.

If you want to prepare yourself properly ahead of time, we have some tips that might come in handy. It’s crucial that you use this experience to its fullest potential, so read on to discover the ins and outs of attending your first college fair.

Engage in Some Prior Planning

You don’t want to show up unprepared and feel like you are flailing in unchartered territory. Make sure you do some planning beforehand to ensure you make the most of the experience. One great way to do this is to arrange a meeting with your college counselor prior to the fair. They can help you create a plan on which booths to visit by assisting you in narrowing down your goals.

You will want to discuss things like:

•What majors you are considering

•Where you would like to attend school

•How large of a school are you comfortable with

•How your current grades affect your choice of schools

Once you have some of these considerations nailed down, it will be easier to know who to talk to and what you want out of the fair.

Bring a Pen and a Notebook

You will be getting a lot of information in a short span of time, so be sure to take notes. As you are speaking with reps, write down any initial impressions you have and any questions or details you want to remember. Your records can come in handy later on when it comes time to visit the school or fill out your application. Small details can serve as an impressive lead-in to a follow-up conversation down the road.

Stick With a Timeline

You will have a limited amount of time to visit each booth and speak with representatives. Make a list of your top choices according to priority and begin with the first one. Move down the list one by one, leaving yourself enough time to visit each booth. Once the representative has answered your questions, move on to the next school. Reps know you are on a tight schedule and won’t be offended when you need to excuse yourself.

Make Labels to Hand Out

Ay many college fairs, students register before attending and receive scannable bar codes to present to the reps. However, not all fairs will be like this. To save time, prepare labels beforehand that include your information so you can give one to each representative. The label should include your name, phone number, address, email, the name of your high school, and when you intend to start college. This will keep you from having to write out all this information at each booth and give you more time to get your questions answered.

Be Prepared to Wait Your Turn

For popular colleges, the line at the booth may be long, and you may need to wait a while before it is your turn. Have patience and stick it out. It’s vital that you get a chance to talk to the representative, so you can get all the information you need. If the line is super-long, you might want to skip to the next choice on your list until the crowd clears. However, don’t forget to go back, as this may be one of your only chances to investigate the school by speaking with the rep.

Make an Excellent First Impression

When you do get the chance to speak with a representative, introduce yourself. Shake their hand and make eye contact. Let them know which high school you are from and show enthusiasm and pride in yourself and your school.

When it’s time to ask questions, be specific. Don’t ask something general like, “what’s your school like?” Go in with some preplanned questions about acceptance rates, student to teacher ratios, or questions about your chosen major. These types of questions show the rep you are interested in the college and have done a little legwork already.

Make sure you are respectful and polite, as you genuinely don’t know who this person is and what influence they could have over admissions. They might be a volunteer, current student, or admissions counselor, and they could be making a note of their conversation with you as well.

Make sure you ask for the business card of the representative you speak with. This way, if you have questions that come up after the fair, you can contact them and get more detailed answers.

Leave Some Extra Time to Explore

There will likely be some schools at each fair that you have not even considered. However, if you have time left over, it can be worth it to check out a few different colleges. You may find yourself surprisingly interested. If you are genuinely impressed, make a note to add them to your list and do some more research after the fair.

What to Do After the Fair

When you get home, organize all the papers and brochures you received and go over everything while it is fresh in your mind. Keep each college’s literature and cards in separate folders to avoid getting them mixed up.

Prioritize each school and decide which are your first choices and which will take a back seat for now. Make notes if you think of any questions you will want to ask the rep later on.

Once you have a better idea of the schools you want to investigate further, you should follow up with the representative by sending an email to ask any additional questions you think of. Thank the person for their time and for the chance to meet them at the fair. It’s also a great idea to send a handwritten note if you have an address. This is an ideal way to build a relationship with someone who could end up with your application on their desk in the future.


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