Advice for College Fairs

<p>S ( a h.s. junior) I and some friends will be going to a large, regional college fair soon. I would welcome advice on how to take maximum advantage of this opportunity. I am betting that there are things that S and I can do so that he would stand out for opportunities such as admission, merit scholarships and select, free summer programs.</p>

<p>We are African American. S goes to a rigorous magnet program, and he is particularly strong in math and science, and has strong leadership. He has, however, broad academic interests. </p>

<p>We will be going to the fair with a classmate and his parents, both of which are Hispanic, including one whose native language is Spanish. Classmate, however, does not "look Hispanic" and also doesn't have a first or last name that is traditionally Hispanic. </p>

<p>I am suggesting that the students wear t-shirts related to their magnet program and bring resumes. Any other suggestions? </p>

<p>Among the colleges will be a couple of first tier ones and lots of second and third tier colleges. Based on their soph PSAT scores, both of the students are very likely to become at least semi-finalists in the PSAT-related scholarship contests for their racial/ethnic groups, and they may score high enough to place in National Merit as commended students.</p>

<p>College fairs are crowded and somewhat chaotic, but they can lead you to good information. When my son went to a NACAC college fair last year, he was able to mention (or maybe it was me; I can't remember) what he was doing currently, and that included an accelerated math program that is well known to college admission officers. That has come up in conversation this year too. The program doesn't have a T-shirt, but it is a natural thing to mention in response to "what are you doing this year?" </p>

<p>I DID see a lot of kids at an MIT regional information session wearing T-shirts from Science Olympiad, a program I wasn't aware of until then. I have no idea whether or not the MIT representatives there where taking notes about who had what T-shirts on. </p>

<p>Ethnicity, too, can come up in conversation if a student asks, "What kind of programs do you have for Hispanic students?" and "diversity" is ALWAYS emphasized by college representatives at regional information sessions and generally is at college fair booths. Every student in the college fair crowd is always free to ask about whatever is important to that student. </p>

<p>Choose some schools ahead of time, and plan a reasonable path around the room in which the fair is held to be able to see all the more important schools to you. </p>

<p>Have fun!</p>


<p>I can only speak for myself, but many of my interactions with college fair representatives, and college officials at prospective student receptions, have led me to believe that issues of diversity and ethnicity do come up fairly regularly. As a URM (I'm a mixed-URM), it is important to ask questions, and interview for a particular college. That way, they are made aware of your particular circumstances. For many colleges, it is important to request information from a colleges website, as they will send you opportunities for minority students (Amherst, Swarthmore, Sewanee, etc have all mailed me registration forms for special weekends to get to know the colleges). And, that was before I had done Part I of the Common Application.</p>

<p>As for the college fair, target the schools you like, instead of going to every booth. Some of my friends even had labels made ahead of time with Name, Address, Phone, E-mail, GPA, Scores, Area of Interest, Class Rank, & ethnicity ready--so they could cut the time needed to fill the information cards at the colleges that were of interest. Just adhere and turn in. Also, make sure he has a list of specific questions for the target schools. Memorize them and practice it to look natural (I had to practice, because sometimes I get side tracked). Makes sure to get the reps card (a lot of people forget to do this), and remember to smile. </p>

<p>Colleges you might want to look at: Trinity C, Grinnell, Colby, Bates, Hendrix, Denison, URochester, Amherst, Tulane, Colgate, Rhodes, University of the South, Oberlin, Lewis & Clark, Reed, Sawrthmore, Whitman. Those are just a few. I've applied to some of them myself, because they want more diversity, and have good support systems for URMs.</p>

<p>After hitting the colleges that are on your list, then you can browse the other booths or go to the workshops. If it is a 2 day fair (NACAC) like it was in Portland, OR, concentrate on the schools the first day, and then browse and take a workshop the next day, or visa versa.</p>

<p>Anyhow, I hope this helps a little. Remember to plan. There were many people who did not have a list of the schools, so they appeared more scattered than they would have had they even just had an outline of what to expect. </p>

<p>Have a great day. :)</p>

<p>Son #3 and I attended THE college fair a few weeks ago. Why do I refer to it as THE college fair? It was held at the same time as the NACAC annual convention was going on. There were several hundred schools represented. I anticipated a large turnout of schools since it was the national convention. What surprised me was the lack of top 50 schools. The only Ivy school present was Princeton. The only top LAC was Swarthmore. The convention took place in Milwaukee, a city with a sizable minority population so I anticipated that schools would want to be there to try and attract minority members but apparently that was not the case. I also thought they might be interested in recruiting students from the midwest but I must have been wrong on this one also. My guess is that a lot of the top 50 schools don't feel the need to make their presense known at these events since they have so many applicants anyway. </p>

<p>Also, I doubt that attending or not attending a college fair has any affect on admission whatsoever. I did find it helpful, however, to begin to help my junior start to think about what he might want in a college. There were a couple of schools that he became interested in that were not on my "this one might be a good one for him to think about" list. And it was nice to have some 1 - 1 time with him where we just focused on talking about schools.</p>

<p>Hmmmm. How to stand out? Some good tips above.</p>

<p>Does your S want to wear that identifying t-shirt? Make sure he feels SUPER confident in whatever he is wearing. If he doesn't charm them, they won't remember the t-shirt....</p>

<p>He might want to pick three or four high priority booths and make a point of visiting those on his own--with the goal of making a favorable impression. </p>

<p>Another tip, an obvious one--but practicing makes it better: make sure he has a firm and warm handshake and is able to look adults/interviewers in the eye when he shakes hands and when he is listening. </p>

<p>Finally, my father gave me this advice and I've used it successfully: ask the interviewer for a piece of advice. It hooks them into a personal investment and takes the pressure off. A person giving advice WANTS to see you accept it.</p>

<p>The college fair is a time for you to get to know a college. There really isn't enough time for a college to get to know you. The reps see thousands of kids during these ordeals. Don't worry about catching the eye of a rep.</p>

<p>I can't remember who made the EXCELLENT suggestion but print out labels with your name, address, high school, GPA, maybe even potential major or PSAT scores on them before you go so you can use them to complete those College Fair cards that all the booths have. My daughter's guidance counselor said this is about the only thing colleges really do keep track of at college fairs.</p>

<p>Do get a list of which schools will be at the fair beforehand. My daughter's high school's college fair had a very well put together list that was useful in planning how she was going to spend her time. Most of the fairs I've looked at on the web have similiar information as well. Blaineko took the same tack my daughter did - visit selectively.</p>

<p>Much depends on the fair itself. My daughter's high school fair had about 120 colleges (including most of the top 30 schools, the UC's and many Catholic schools). There were about 500 students in attendance. I agree with Ellemenope - it was definitely NOT the place to really get a rep's attention. You were lucky if you had 60 seconds to ask a question of the rep. I doubt they would have noticed a tee shirt. It was more a place to gather information and be "sold" on various colleges than it was a place to sell yourself to the colleges. </p>

<p>On the other hand, if it's a college fair specifically for minority recruitment, that might be a different situation.</p>

<p>that is a great idea.
around here the college fairs are packed, and while we did a brief pass through, we didn't talk to anyone for more than a few minutes, it just was not the place to do that.
We did attend a talk but the guides that were repeatedly referenced were outdated sources.</p>

<p>Stickers would have been great, but you can get the same thing on the websites as well as quicktime tours!
a regional fair may be more helpful. The only tour we went to was a national tour and it was just huge, and the schools that change lives tour that was much more manageable.
Research before hand and conserve your time and energy, and pay attention to the map of the room, trying to hit the ones that may get very busy later, first.</p>

<p>Just having an objective or two for attending already puts you ahead of the game. I'd try to make the objectives even more specific - first hit target schools for merit aid, get school rep business cards and annotate them etc.</p>

<p>These things are overwhelming - even more overwhelming for the college reps than the students I think, so I think getting to the event when the doors open is a great idea. However, if you want to get more time with a specific rep you might try that at the very end of the day/night. The last hour of a recent two-day NACAC fair in Minneapolis was very lightly attended. It was a 9-1 session I think. The first day's sessions (day and evening) were jammed throughout.</p>

<p>If by a resume you mean a no-hype/just-the-facts info sheet on your S I would definitely bring that for distribution. A quick scan of the fact sheet plus your son's visible URM status will cause him to stand out without too much difficulty.</p>

<p>The only college fair that D and I have managed to attend was a CTCL event. D did wear a T-shirt bearing the not very commonplace name of her school. As a junior, D would wait patiently until the rep was unattached and then introduce herself and say she was a jr and if the rep didn't mind could she ask a few questions? She would then ask a very pointed question about a specific course requirement or bizarre freshman seminar topic, i.e. "From Ricky Ricardo to Ricky Martin", or dorm or science building or something showing research. Almost invariably the rep would light up and take interest. Some seemed to want to test the depth of D's interest and D could usually keep up. Probably because she was truly interested.That always helps, doesn't it? </p>

<p>The T-shirt often led to a discussion about sports initiated by the rep which allowed D the perfect opportunity to say that she would decide on the academics first, and the ball playing second. After the initial foray I would scurry off to leave the two alone for a moment, and often returned to find a small crowd gathered to hear the rep's response to D's questions about co-ed dorms, smoking, and one of D's biggies- "How many kids are there on weekends?". She would flat out tell them that she was going to be 1000 miles from home and the school she attends has to have a vital and vibrant student life that occurs on campus. </p>

<p>D waited a week or week and a half and sent quick little notes to the reps that only discussed the kindness that the reps had shown her in answering the "questions of a jr from _______", and her appreciation for such kindness. Of the five schools targeted by D, four had very ,very personable reps. Ursinus, Allegheney, Earlham, and Knox all had very effective spokespeople at the fair we attended, as did others. Interestingly ,they played the game back to her. Each showed they remembered her by bringing up bits of their conversation in a responsive note or letter .D was suitably impressed and all four schools are still high on D's list. I'm assuming that both rep and kid received exactly what they wanted out of the situation.</p>

<p>All the advice is wonderful. We prepped for the college fair and D had an index card for each college that would be there which D was interested in. The card had her specific questions for each school and a reason or two that she particularly liked the college. There was time to review the applicable card while walking over to the next table or standing in line. A word of warning however: Harvard, Yale, and Brown were not on the list of schools which would be sending representatives and they were there anyway. So, if there's a way to get an updated list, get it. If there's a school she loves that's not on the list, prep for it anyway--you never know...</p>

<p>Good point searching. Several schools that were on the list handed out beforehand were NOT there and a few were last minute add ons. So, be prepared for the unexpected I suppose.</p>