This week the Academic Tourist traveled to a local college fair. A college fair is a great opportunity to gain information from a variety of different campuses. I helped to navigate a few students through their first fair. I took for granted that not every young person is comfortable talking with strangers let alone adult strangers. Remember mom did say don’t talk with them.
Coaching the young people and putting into perspective the purpose of the fair helped to ease these teenagers’ minds. “They want highly qualified and interesting students like you,” I explained. “Think of it like buying a car. They want to tell you about the great features that their campus has to offer.”
Just like a car they had a list of demands that they wanted to ensure were met. They included:
· Nice dorms
· Excellent food
· Their major
· Entertainment (that includes a quality football team and basketball team that they could get behind)
· Size of campus
· Distant from home
These were some of the things that the students wanted to know about. I believe that every campus can educate students. The extra features are what make a particular campus a good fit for a student. When one purchases a car you have the option of driving off the lot with the basics. Many people however want a car with heat, air and electric windows. I am hoping that you’re getting the picture.
I became these students caddie helping them navigate the over 125 schools that participate. I coached my first student to ask one simple question. “Do you have Criminal Justice,” my nervous student said. This one sentence got the conversation started.
The second college fair for a student is always a little easier. You can explain in advance what is going to happen but too actually going through one gives you a sense of what to expect. Here are a few suggestions that I think can assist any student to successfully navigate a college fair.
1. Identify what colleges will be attending the fair
a. I recommend that you visit the schools that are on the top of your list then investigate schools that you never thought of attending.
2. Make sure that you write out the essential questions that you have concerning the schools. Below is a starter list that can get you started on your own list.
a. How do you handle IB & AP credits?
b. What are the most popular majors?
c. What is the average class size?
d. What do students do on the weekend?
3. I suggest students create business cards or pre-addressed labels with their contact information. This will save you time when you are meeting with the admission representatives. This will also assist you to navigate a very busy or crowded fair.
4. When you complete the college fair take time out to review the materials that you received. Send out emails to representatives that shared their business cards. Admissions representatives meet thousands of students every year but I am always amazed how they remember students. Sending an email to ask additional questions is acceptable. Sending an email to say thank you is the right thing to do.
Finally, it would be worth your while to visit and register for two national college fairs. Colleges That Change Lives, Inc. (CTCL) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process. They support the goal of each student finding a college that develops a lifelong love of learning and provides the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life beyond college. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (also known as NACAC) has released its schedule for the 2012. Please visit https://www.gotomyncf.com/ to register for a fair near you.
Mark Ausbrooks is the Academic Tourist. He occasionally blogs about colleges and universities that he encounters.