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College Fairs:  Plan, Prepare, Participate!

College Fairs are a popular way for prospective students and their parents to learn more about the colleges they are interested in, financial aid, and the upcoming expectations and deadlines of the application process. 

College fairs are a great way for students to make important connections!

Developing a plan and discussing it beforehand is an excellent way for students and parents to be on the same page when attending a college fair together.  College Parenting Expert, Wendy David-Gaines, shares four detailed ways in which families can plan, prepare, and participate to get the most out of attending a college fair.

4 Savvy ways to get the most out of a college fair

College representatives ready to answer questions and additional seminars on must-know topics like financial aid are the lures that draw the college-bound to College Fairs. Thousands of parents and students attend the Fall College Expo and the savvy make the most of a special opportunity that overwhelms many. Learn the tricks now before attending a college fair sponsored by organizations and high schools later this fall or next spring.

A few thousand parents and students attend the annual Fall College Expo sponsored by the Nassau Counselors’ Association (NCA). This was the 34th event and it was held in the Clark Athletic Center of SUNY College at Old Westbury. “Over 250 schools plus military and career schools are represented. Last year, more than 4,000 students and their parents visited the Expo and we expect to have a terrific turnout this year as well,” NCA’s website explains.

In addition to the chance to talk with college staff, college experts give seminars about preparing for college admission, financial aid, NCAA Guidelines for the college athlete, and students with special needs. Many families participated in this year’s sessions.

With so many people and so much information, it is easy to become overwhelmed. A little preparation can make a big difference.

College fair plan

Consider the options before diving in. If preregistration is available, do so and review materials for options. Seminars are often given at a specific time so check the schedule upon arrival. If students have a college list, visit those on it first.

Plan to take longer than expected. Lines can grow long and fast, so arrive early for the best chance to meet and speak with college reps.

Don’t dismiss schools without lines. They may turn out to be hidden gems.

Information sources have their own agenda. College representatives use college fairs as marketing opportunities to encourage interest in their institution. They distribute information via brochures and other items to attract attention, meet prospective students, and encourage them to visit and apply for admission. Students can use this to their advantage by getting the rep’s contact information. Follow-up with questions in a quieter and more personalized setting.

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Students and parents should set their agenda. Students attending college fairs include high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors but each are in a different phase of the college search process. For those first starting, use the fair to get educated about higher education. Sit in on seminars, visit college booths and gather college brochures to review at home.

Students who have already researched schools can use the fair to find answers to questions not contained in written info and college websites.

Speak with college staff, many of whom attended the school they represent, for insider tips about the campus, surrounding area, programs, and internships. Students ready to apply can focus on college comparisons and unique opportunities that will help students grow, thrive and be best prepared for graduate school or careers.

Parents can help their student. College representatives are interested in speaking with prospective students but many get tongue-tied. Have a conversation to brainstorm questions to ask and an elevator speech the student can use to introduce himself. Step back to let the student hone some independence and leadership skills to vest herself in the college process. Attend seminars for the first time or as a refresher to get updated information because both the admission and financial aid processes can change at any time.

College Fair

Have you attended a college fair?  What did you see as the biggest benefit of attending?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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