By Margaret McKibbin:
Are you headed to the MN National College Fair next week? If so, this information is for you. Feel free to share this information!
College Fair 101
First of all, go! It's a great way to meet admissions recruiters from a number of schools in one easy swoop. Your objective is to become a face and person, not just a name on an application.
Second, here are some general comments about what to expect and how to act at a college fair:
If you have a brief academic resume, take extra copies with you. That way -- when you connect with an admissions recruiter -- you can leave information with him or her. Include your name, contact info, GPA, test scores, activities and honors/awards.
Preregister. This way you can check in easily with schools.
Dress nicely. This is definitely a time when you want to a make a good impression!
Don't start with your top choice or dream school. Practice with someone else first. Stop at a couple of tables and simply listen to the kinds of questions that are being asked.
Admissions recruiters are generally very outgoing and easy to talk to...connecting with students is part of their job. You can do this!
Introduce yourself. Shake hands firmly. Make eye contact and speak clearly. Act interested. Be polite.
Admissions recruiters are your ally and advocate. Don't be scared of them! They need students to make up their next incoming class and they are just waiting to fall in love with you. Ask them questions about their school. Get their contact information so you can follow up later with the question(s) you forgot to ask at the moment.
These same recruiters visit local high schools. Be sure you get out of class and go meet them when they're at your school. Remind them that you met (or met someone they work with) at the College Fair.
Say "thank you" and definitely follow up if you made a meaningful connection.
And, finally, I know asking questions can be hard, so here are some suggestions for you: (NOTE: Avoid asking obvious questions that can be answered by a quick review of the website or the materials they're distributing.)
Often admissions recruiters are alumni from that school. Ask if that's the case. If so, ask them why they chose the school. (Presumably they liked their experience; they are working there now!) Also ask what they didn't like about the school. A good way to phrase that is to say, "Is there anything you would change about this college or university?"
Ask how many first-year students return the following year. This is called their "retention rate" and it gives you a good idea of student satisfaction.
If you have any concerns or doubts, ask about them. For instance, maybe the school is kind of far away from a big city and you've grown accustomed to living in the Twin Cities. Or maybe the school is right in the heart of a city and you're more used to suburban life. Ask about whether students stay on campus on the weekends or if they go home. Find out what kinds of things there are to do nearby and what students do in their free time.
Find out if faculty are known for being readily available if/when you need help. Can you meet with the professor or will you be sent to a teaching assistant? Ask about typical class sizes.
Find out about Career Resources. Are they available to help students find internships? How many job recruiters come on campus? Is there any available data about job placement?
If you're interested in studying abroad, ask about that. When and how long do students study abroad? Where do they go? How many students typically do a study abroad?
Ask if there are any unique or special campus traditions. This can be a helpful little nugget to include in an essay.
Most likely there will be other students who are also eager to talk to the recruiters, so don't monopolize their time. Just ask one or two questions. If you want to ask more, make an appointment to meet with them on campus, talk on the phone or simply email.
Good luck and have fun!