It might be tough to convince busy high school juniors to pull themselves away from their packed schedules in May, also known as AP month, to visit a spring college fair, but it is arguably worth the time away from textbooks and test prep to have informal conversations with college admissions representatives.
Once spring semester ends, busy juniors transform into pressured rising seniors who must make college list decisions. And, sometime in the fall, those college lists often turn into a slew of “Why Us?” essays that must be written to accommodate schools never toured firsthand. A college fair is a good place for juniors to gather information that will help them first make informed college list decisions and later provide convincing evidence in favor of their acceptances to desired schools.
Spring is timely for juniors to educate themselves on their college options now that they are closer to knowing what GPA, test scores, activities, and intended major will go on their college applications in the fall. Surely, there is a ton of information online but nothing substitutes for talking to a knowledgeable representative in person who might have stories and advice not likely to be available on a website or included in official written correspondence.
However, students should review the information that is available online first to take full advantage of a college fair, which often takes place in a crowded and loud environment. Students may only have time to ask one or two questions before someone else takes over the conversation. Questions should not be wasted on something easily found online, such as admission requirements or popular majors.
Better questions will build on the knowledge students have of the college or result in anecdotes that will help students get a feel for the campus and community. Of course, students should be ready to take notes, making a point to get the names of people they talk to or collect business cards for possible follow up questions. Prospective applicants should keep in mind that the college admissions representative could be one of the actual college application readers and might even ask for the student’s name. Therefore, it is advisable that the student, as opposed to an enthusiastic parent, be the one asking questions and taking notes.
It is unlikely that juniors in May will arrive to college fairs ready with informed and specific questions about every school of interest. So, in addition to any college-specific questions, students should be ready with a few general questions that will help them compare schools and determine which ones will be the best fit.
Examples of good general questions to ask at college fairs, include:
• How would you describe the student body’s personality?
• What makes your school distinctive?
• How would you describe students’ relationships with professors?
Spring 2014 San Francisco Bay Area College Fairs: Dates and Locations
Cow Palace – Saturday, May 3
Mission College – Thursday, May 8
CSU East Bay – Friday, May 9
Saint Mary’s College – Saturday, May 10
By Azure Brown , ThinkTank Learning Senior Academic Counselor and Admissions Consultant