College-bound juniors and seniors know that fall is college fair season.
Often held at local arenas or large gymnasiums, the fairs feature hundreds of college admissions representatives, each with an array of colorful brochures and give-away items. After a few minutes, one table may begin to look like another. That's when planning ahead can help you make the most of your time at the fair. The New York State Higher Education Services Corp. offers seven tips for strategizing your college fair visit:
•Organize before you go. Review a list of the participating colleges, usually available online or at your high school guidance office. Zero-in on those in which you are especially interested. Make another list of secondary colleges to check out if you have time. You may want to limit your list to 10 or so, since you will have a limited time at each table. If you haven't started already, you can visit HESC.org to begin your college search.
•Prepare your questions ahead of time. Review the colleges' websites and prepare questions you would like to ask each representative. College fairs are fairly crowded and you may not have time to get all of your questions answered, so choose questions that are not easily found on the schools' websites.
•Print address labels to bring with you. Save time filling out interest cards and use pre-printed address labels with your name, address, email address, your high school, when you expect to start college and the major(s) in which you are interested. If your high school guidance office provides personal bar codes with this information, be sure to get yours before you go. It's also helpful to bring along a notebook and pen to take notes.
•Strategize with a map. When you arrive, pick up a map to help target your colleges so you don't waste time backtracking. Bags are usually available at the door for all the brochures you're going to be getting. Having a family member with you can be a big help. For example, if your family is concerned about financing your college education, you may want a trusted adult to spend time at the financial aid table with you.
•Try to arrive early. If you get there early, you can move at a more leisurely pace. Also, the later you arrive, the more crowded it gets and the less likely the college reps will have as much time to spend with you.
•Review carefully. Over the next few days, review each college's materials carefully. If there's something you really like about the school, highlight it and put a sticky note on the page so you can find it later. If you have a question about something you read, write it down and put it on the top of the pile. If you can't find the answer in the brochures, check out their website. If you still have questions, send an email to the admissions representative to get more information.
•File, file, file. Once you've reviewed everything, you may discover that some of the schools you were considering don't really fit what you're looking for in a college; bring those brochures back to the guidance office to share with other students. Create a file for each of the remaining schools, so you can add any additional information you receive from them. Your personal college file will become your best tool for making a wise college choice.
Looking for a college fair near you? Check out HESC.org for an up-to-date list.