Make the most of college fairs

university-students_23-2147504569As you begin researching colleges, you’re likely to have the chance to attend in-person or online college fairs. These events are more than a chance to pick up a college brochure and a bit of swag. Following these easy steps will help you find the best college match.

· Plan ahead. Check out the list of colleges and universities that will be participating in the college fair. Creating a chart of fast facts about each school can be a good way to keep track of things as you gather more data.

· Dress the part. You don’t need to wear a suit to the college fair but you do want to wear something that looks neat and tidy. After all, you’ll be talking with admissions counselors and want to make a good impression on them.

· Research the websites of the schools you’re interested in. You don’t want to waste an admissions counselor’s time asking them questions you could have found the answers to on their website.

· Have conversations! Don’t just gather literature from the schools. Talk with their admissions counselors. They can give you great insight into their degree programs, campus life, financial aid, and more. Ask open-ended questions, such as what do you look for in applicants or how would you describe your learning environment. This is a great way to get more information about the school.

· Share who you are. Let the admissions counselor know what got you interested in their school. If you’re interested in a particular degree program or campus club, ask them more about it.

· Keep an open mind. You don’t need to focus only on schools nearby or those that are top ranked. The university that’s the perfect match for you may well be one you’ve never heard of!

· Team up. Going to the fair with a friend, parent, or mentor is a great way to help divvy up the work and to get a second impression about each school you’re considering.

· Take your time. Visiting a college fair can quickly become overwhelming. The best approach is to go at your own pace, and follow the plan you set out ahead of time. This way you won’t get distracted by all the hustle and bustle going on around you.

· Learn from the experts. Many college fairs also offer free presentations on topics such as essay writing, scholarships, and more. Attending those is a great way to become more informed about the admissions process and to increase your chances of getting admitted to your top school!

· Take notes. Researching colleges can be overwhelming. Write down important facts about each school as well as what additional information you gathered during the college fair. And write down any outstanding questions that you still have.

· Follow-up. Get a business card for each admissions counselor that you speak with. Check back in with admissions counselors after the college fair. Thank them for their time, and take the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions you haven’t yet found answers to. This is a great way to show your appreciation and to demonstrate your interest in the school.