College fairs give colleges and students a chance to connect. You can get answers and discover new colleges to investigate.
Want to find out more about colleges that interest you, discover new colleges, and connect with college reps? All in an afternoon? Then attend a college fair.
What's a College Fair Like?
Imagine a high school gym jammed with tables loaded with brochures and giveaways. Hundreds of people crowd the aisles, bearing backpacks or lugging tote bags. Many are gathered around tables, waiting to talk to well-dressed people wearing name badges. It's crowed, noisy, bright, and chaotic. It's a college fair—a mass meet-up between college representatives and high school students and their parents.
Why Attend a College Fair?
You can get answers to your personal questions about colleges. You can connect with admissions staff from colleges that you might apply to. In fact, the person you meet might very well be the first reader of your application. Last and certainly not least, you can discover appealing new schools to explore.
How to Find Out About College Fairs
Your guidance office should post a notice listing upcoming fairs. The National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) sponsors many of these fairs, and puts information about them on its website, nacacnet.org.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Which colleges are attending? Create a list of colleges to visit in order of priority. Be sure to discuss your ideas with your parents and counselor.
- What will you ask? Prepare questions that can't be answered by doing your own research on the college website and CollegeData.
- Will badge scanners be used? If not, bring self-stick labels with your name, contact information, high school name, and major interest.
- What's your plan? Get a map of the fair layout. Plan to visit your top priority colleges first. If a parent is going with you, plan how you will coordinate your time.
- What will you bring? Bring a backpack or tote bag to hold any materials you plan to pick up, a small notebook containing your list of questions, and a pen to write down the answers or other notes.
What to Do When You're There
- Talk to the reps of high priority colleges. You may have to wait in line at the more well-known colleges. Get the rep's card for later follow-up and provide your contact information. Do this only if you are really interested.
- Allow time for browsing colleges. You might be missing a gem.
- Attend an informational session. Fairs often offer seminars on financial aid, athletic admissions, and SAT and ACT testing.
- Visit onsite counselors. Many fairs make experts available in financial aid and admissions to field general questions.
Reflect Once You Get Home
Take time to process what you learned. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give yourself a day or two away from your college search. Then unload the materials you gathered and go over your notes. Did some colleges strike you more favorably or less? Why? Did you uncover some new colleges to consider?
- Learn more about colleges by going on college visits, researching college websites, and using College Match to see detailed College Profiles.
- Discuss your ideas with parents and counselors. The more you do your research and talk to knowledgeable people, the more clearly the pieces of your search will come together into a great college list.