How do you pare down a “wish list” of 50 or more colleges and universities all over the country? What if you have no idea where to start looking for the school that will be the right match for you? With approximately 5300 accredited colleges and universities and almost 1000 community colleges in the U.S., how do you get information about even a handful of the schools you’d like to explore?
Even if you start researching schools as a high school freshman, it isn’t financially or personally possible for your family to jet all over the country to tour the schools you’ve heard about. Of course, there are many websites, reference books and search engines that will help you, and a professional like College Essay Whiz or your guidance counselor will be able to work with you in order to narrow down your search. But you need to take ownership of the process. So what’s the value of a college fair?
A college fair is usually free, accessible at venues such as a university or a conference center, with anywhere from dozens to hundreds of tables or booths with admissions representatives offering information about their schools. You will have access to brochures, maps, pamphlets, banners, souvenirs, and most of all, professionals eager to answer any questions you have or to tell you all about what is special about their schools. The National College Fairs sponsored by NACAC offers representatives from 175 to 400 U.S. and internationally-based colleges. Not only can you collect those materials to peruse later on, but you can also collect the business cards from the representatives, many of whom may be the admissions officers who will review your application or even visit your high school during the fall. What a great opportunity to be able to follow up with a call or email to these representatives to thank them for their time and attention to your questions! You can also ask admission reps to scan your barcode so that they can connect you with more information later.
In addition to the standard college fair, there are specialized fairs for visual and performing arts in the fall. At least 25 sites all over the country provide representatives with vital information for student actors, artists, dancers and musicians. Preparation for these competitive programs often requires a timeline for applications that start as early as freshman or sophomore year. Students are often surprised to discover that the professionals will review and make suggestions about portfolios; others will provide essential information about auditions.
Also, STEM fairs have started to spring up for students eager to study science, technology, engineering and math. This fall, the sites include Houston, Atlanta, Silicon Valley, and Manhattan.
Last, the college fairs are great ways to engage the entire family in the process! Don’t overlook the fact that your parents and siblings will ask different questions and learn intriguing information for everyone to share!