The fall season is upon us! For admissions officers, fall represents not only pumpkin spice lattes but also travel season! This is where we fly all over the country and the world to meet you at your high school and at college fairs. I myself just got back from a 4-week trip to Asia where I represented Tufts in multiple college fairs. Fairs are a useful and efficient way for students to connect with multiple college representatives but they can also be quite intimidating! Here’s my honest advice on how to take on college fairs and some do's and dont's to consider before you participate.
DO your research and have a game plan
Fairs can be huge! Sometimes there will be over 100 colleges represented and you won’t have enough time to talk to everyone. Do some research beforehand on the schools attending to figure out which tables you want to hit. If you’re just starting your search, it might be useful to speak to schools with different sizes and locations to get a sense of your personal fit. While you may be tempted to prioritize the schools you know, DO try to approach a school you’ve never heard of. You never know, they might have awesome program that totally fits your interests!
DON’T be disrespectful
The person standing behind the desk will likely be the admissions officer who will read your application. You want to make a good impression in your introduction, appearance (hot tip: don't dress inappropriately), and questions. Saying things like “Alright, what’s your school about?” or “Sell me your school” might come across as rude and disrespectful. Admissions officers are there to not to “sell” but to provide information so that you can figure out whether the school is a good fit for you. This leads me to my next point…
DO come prepared with good questions!
You want to use your time at the fair productively. Plan ahead with questions that will help inform your college search. If you’re stuck on what to ask, here are some suggestions:
DON’T ask broad open questions or statistics you can easily google.
I sometimes feel sad (maybe sad is too strong a word) at fairs when a student has waited in line to meet me and when they finally get to the front they ask me a question that I know they can google. As a Tufts alum, my brain is filled with stories about Tufts that I'm excited to share with you all. I can't share those nuggets of information if I get a general question about average SAT scores. I’ll admit that I’m feeling a tad selfish by sharing this but I wanted to include a few examples of questions not to ask or rather, questions that are not as helpful for students and officers. Please do not worry if you have asked these questions in the past. I promise it doesn’t mean that you made a negative impression; admissions officers just tend to prefer questions that can be more productive and engaging for the student!
I hope this will be helpful as you continue your college search, whether you are a junior just starting to learn about different schools or a senior gathering more information to help narrow your list or write your supplemental essay. Good luck!
Photo Credit: LRISSCA College Fair | Flickr