College Admissions

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Tips For The College Fair

A few things to remember while you browse the tables at a college fair:

• Plan ahead. Meet with your guidance counselor prior to the college fair season. Often more than 300 colleges attend these fairs. It is helpful to talk with a counselor about your interests and hopes in order to develop an initial list of schools to research. Ask your counselor for a list of the colleges that will be present so that you can create a list of schools about which you want to gather more information.

• No flybys. Take the time to stop and speak with the representative at the table. Do not just grab a view-book or free pencil and run for the door. With the surge in applications that many colleges are now experiencing, more and more institutions are factoring "demonstrated interest" into their admissions decisions. They track contact with the admissions office and often prefer students who have shown interest in the college. By filling out the contact cards at the fair tables, your name will be added to the mailing list and the formal relationship with the college has begun.

• Know who you are talking to. Representatives behind each table vary depending on the institution. Often the individual is the regional dean of admissions who will likely be reading your application in a few months.

. Other times, an alumnus of the college, current student, parent or faculty member will be assisting the admissions office by attending. It is in your interest to understand with whom you are talking and what their relative influence in the process is. Collect business cards so that you can write to the representative and thank him or her for taking the time to speak with you.

• Save time and avoid writer's cramp. Before you attend the fair, print out a sheet or two of self-adhesive labels with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, high school and birth date. These can be applied to the contact cards, ensuring that your information will be legible and saving you from writing the information over and over again.

• Arrive fashionably late. Often the crowds are the thickest at the beginning of the fair, and it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with the admissions counselors. While you do not want to wait to catch them as they are packing up, you will likely stand out more if you can have an in-depth conversation rather than elbow your way through the crowd.

• Highlight your interests. The flow of information goes both ways at fairs. It is an excellent opportunity for you to gather literature and materials from colleges, but admissions counselors are eager to learn more about you. If you have specific interests in terms of a major, sports team, or other activity, be sure to discuss these with the representative. Chances are, they will make a note on your contact card, and you might be invited to special events on campus or connected with a coach or faculty member.

• Ask thoughtful questions. Questions such as "Do you have a biology major?" or "Where are you located?" can easily be answered by glancing at the view-book. Instead, think of more probing questions such as "What makes your institution different from your peers schools?" or "How accessible are opportunities for research with faculty?" These thoughtful inquiries will distinguish you among the other students wandering through the fair.

Just as April showers bring May flowers, the energy and time invested in researching colleges and establishing relationships on the front end of this process will pay significant dividends down the road.

By: Brennan Barnard

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3:55 PM  

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