How To Make An Impression At College Fairs
Following these tips can help you stand out among hundreds of applicants.
At a college fair, it’s easy to stockpile glossy brochures, drool over photos of students in warmer climates, pick up extra pens (emblazoned with the name of an institution of higher learning, of course) and generally zone out, overwhelmed by the choices.
What’s harder is to make a good impression.
That’s important because oftentimes, the college representatives you’ll meet at the college fairs are the same admission officers that will make the final determination on whether your application for admission will be accepted or rejected. Therefore, you want to do your best to stand out.
Dress for the occasion
Many big college fairs are held during school hours and, in most cases, students are bused to the event, which is typically held at a big auditorium or stadium. A seasoned college admissions officer will easily pick out the students who are most serious about college as they walk in the door.
I was assistant director of admissions at a fashion school for almost a decade, so I picked up a few fashion tips along the way. Although a suit is not inappropriate for this type of event, I strongly encourage students not to wear one.
If you wear jeans and a T-shirt 364 days out of the year, you may not feel comfortable in a suit on that 365th day. Instead, wear something comfortable that’ll make you look good and at the same time won’t interfere with your confidence.
Whether you’re a boy or a girl, you can’t go wrong with wearing a clean pair of khakis and a clean polo shirt. In the wintertime, switch the khakis for a pair of dark slacks. If you want to look more business-like, wear a button-down shirt with a nice V-neck sweater over it.
If the college fair caught you by surprise (and before laundry day), don’t be shy about explaining the situation to the college representative. Apologize for not being dressed for the occasion and try to set up a campus visit. When you arrive for the visit, be sure to be dressed to impress.
Submit an application
College fairs are convenient because most of the schools represented will have application forms to hand out. Many students make the mistake, however, of standing at the booth and filling out these applications there.
If you fill it out at the booth, you risk getting in the way of the representative and other students. Fill it out elsewhere and return it to the representative when you finish.
Want to make a really great impression? Prior to attending the event, find out which colleges will be at the fair. Go online and print out the application forms for those schools. When you attend the college fair, submit the completed application with all the required documents (i.e. transcripts) to the representative.
You may be well dressed and have a great GPA, but you can easily lose the attention of college representatives at a fair if you don’t ask the right questions.
First off, know that they are there to answer specific questions about their specific college—and not questions you could answer yourself if you had visited the school’s website. They are not there to provide career guidance. Many students make the mistake of asking the college representative to help them choose a major. That is not their job.
Do your due diligence. Find out ahead of time what majors you are interested in and which ones the specific college offers. If you must ask the representative about college majors, begin by telling them your career goals and then ask for feedback on how their specific college can help you reach those goals.
The worst questions to ask a representative are:
- How much will it cost to attend your college?
- Do you think I can obtain a scholarship from your college?
Asking the first question will put the representative on the defensive, feeling like they have to justify their costs and fees. This is especially true when the college charges more tuition than many of the other colleges represented at the fair.
However, the question can also suggest that you haven’t done your research properly and are shopping around for a college based on its costs rather than on the programs they offer.
In regards to the second question, the admissions officer almost never has a say on whether an applicant will be awarded scholarship money. Furthermore, colleges that have scholarship money to offer will often scout out potential recipients of that money (especially when it comes to athletic scholarships).
Also, many scholarships are based on financial need. Because the representative doesn’t know your specific financial need, they will not be able to answer the question to your satisfaction.
Thanking someone for his or her time and attention is very easy to do and yet most people never do so.
Note that the representative may have met several hundred students during just one college fair. When you get home, send them a small, personalized card thanking them for their help and advice.
You may have made a good impression by dressing appropriately and asking the right questions but your manners are what definitely will set you apart from all the other applicants.
Mark your calendar now
Glenbrook North and South host a joint college fair from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m. April 7 at the Allstate Arena.