You can get a lot of bang for your zero-cost buck by attending a College Fair. These events, held typically in the fall and spring around the country bring college recruiters to cities to talk with prospective students and their parents. If you do not have the time or money to travel all over the country or even just your own state, you can get some pertinent information in a short couple of hours.
You can find one in your area by talking to your high school counselor. Some of the major ones are sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and its fairs are on the following schedule: http://www.nacacnet.org/college-fairs/students-parents/Pages/default.aspx. An organization on the West Coast that sponsors college fairs is the Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC), and the next one of those fairs will be held at the University of Nevada, Reno, on Sunday, Nov. 3, from 12 to 4 p.m. Students should register in advance to save time at the door for this FREE event:http://www.wacaccollegefair.com. Typically, as many as 200 or more colleges attend these events — and many of my former students found their dream college at one of those fairs.
As you search for these college fairs in your area, make sure that as you register online, that you are registering as a STUDENT and not a college rep. These are most always FREE events, so if the online form asks for payment . . . oops, you’ve got the wrong form!
Often these college reps are from the prospective students or outreach office at their university. However, sometimes you might find that admissions officers and perhaps even the head admissions counselor is standing right in front of you. You do not need to dress in business attire, but you will want to look sharp.
To make the most of these events, engage with the college representatives. As I’ve taken students to college fairs over many years, I give them a pep talk before we enter the event, saying something silly like this: “You’re happy! You’re smart! You’re friendly!” That gets a smile on their faces and helps them understand that they should be the one most proactive about getting the most from the experience.
Do the following:
1. Smile, extend your hand, and introduce yourself. “Hi, I’m John Jones, and I’m a student from Littletown.”
2. Explain what kind of college program you’re interested in. “I’m interested in mechanical engineering. Can you tell me something about your program?”
3. Engage in conversation about those subjects important to you. Here are some other great questions to ask:
- “How would you characterize the students at your university?”
- “What do students like most about the college?” “What do they like the least?”
- “Is the faculty accessible to students other than the traditional office hours?”
- “Are any departments being cut back or discontinued? If so, why?”
- “What percentage of students receive merit-based financial aid? And what percentage of students receive need-based financial aid?”
You and your parents might want to make a list of important questions before you attend the college fair — ones that are most important to you.
I coach my students to ask each college rep at least a couple questions. One that can often catch a rep off-guard is “Do you like your job?” You can find out the true answer to that in their face — and that can say volumes about a school, too! If the rep was a student at that college, ask that person to relate some of their best and worst experiences.
Pick up any and all of the freebies: brochures, flyers, pens, and other trinkets. If you can’t use them, your friends and even your high school counselor probably can.