9 College Fair Tips

Attending a college fair can be intimidating, especially if you don’t come prepared. Depending on the college fair you attend, you could see anywhere from 15 to hundreds of colleges in attendance. Where will you start? Who will you talk to? What will you say? If you don’t come prepared, you probably won’t get the most out of the college fair. Here are some tips that will help you prepare for the college fair.

1. Get to know yourself and what you want in a college.

Depending on the size of the college fair, you won’t be able to go to every table at the college fair. Get to know what type of college you would be interested in attending. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What locations would you consider? Do you only want to be a certain amount of miles away from home? Do you only want to consider colleges in certain states?
  • What majors are you interested in studying? It’s okay to have multiple interests or not know at all. If you have multiple interests, I recommend finding colleges that offer all of your interests in case you change your major in college.
  • What size college do you want to attend? There are colleges that have only a few hundred students to colleges that have 50,000 students. What sizes are comfortable attending?
  • Do you want to attend a college with religious affiliation?
  • Is there an extracurricular activity that is very important to you that you want to participate in when getting to college?

2. Find out what colleges will be attending the fair.

You can find this answer by checking with your high school or the college fair website. Keep a copy of this list and highlight the colleges you want to make sure you talk to while you’re at the fair.

3.  Do a little research ahead of time.

Find out what colleges offer everything you are looking for in a school.  A great tool you can use is Collegeboard’s Big Future College Search function. You can plug in all of your preferences and you’ll get a list of colleges that meet your preferences. Definitely visit the colleges that met your preferences and needs.

4. Have your information ready.

  • Many college fairs, especially the large fairs, are moving towards having students register before attending. Instead of writing out all of your information on the information cards at each college table you visit, the college representative will just scan a barcode that you print out after registering online. There will be stations to sign-up at the college fair, but save time (because the lines will be long) and do it before you arrive at the fair.
  • In addition to registering before the fair, prepare labels with the following information: Your name, address, phone number, email address, high school, graduation year, intended start term (ex. Fall 2015 if you’re graduating in 2015), intended major(s) and extracurricular activities you have an interest. Small college fairs won’t give you the opportunity to register. In addition, you want to be prepared in case the scanner the college representative is using doesn’t work. These labels can be used to place on the information cards the colleges will have at their table. Instead of handwriting all of your information, these information labels can be placed on the information cards, and you can spend your time at the table asking the representative questions about the college.

5.  Be patient.

  • Again, depending on the college fair, you might have to wait in line to talk to a college representative, especially at a “big name” college. Be patient and wait your turn. Talking to the representative is very important when trying to narrow down your list of colleges you will investigate further.

6.  Get the college information and Admission Counselor’s business card.

  • Get the information the college is handing out at the college fair. The brochures are great help in your investigation into the college for more information.
  • Get the Admission Counselor’s business card. The Admission Counselor will be a great resource to you in your college selection process. You will be able to contact them when you have questions about the college. In addition, the Admission Counselor is the person that might be making the decision on your application. Make a good impression.

7.  Represent yourself well.

  • Introduce yourself to the representative.
  • Don’t ask general questions like, “What’s your school all about?” Go to the table with a little knowledge about the school. For example, you can ask, “What can you tell me about the ____ major?” or “What is your acceptance rate?” These types of questions are much more helpful to you, plus it shows the college representative that you are truly interested.
  • Be respectful to the college representative, no matter how they are affiliated to the school. The college fair representative may be an Admission Counselor, Alumni volunteer or a current student. No matter who they are, they may be taking notes on you too. When I was an Admission Counselor, I always kept notes on students I met at college fairs. If they really impressed me, or if they were rude, I made a note of it. I also had student representatives come back after college fairs and share their thoughts on some of the students they met.   These notes might go in your file and used later in the admission process.

8.  Go outside of your comfort zone.

  • There will be colleges at the college fair that you probably did not think you’d consider. But, there is something about their booth/table that is pulling you in. Go for it and ask some questions. You might be surprised and find another college or two that are worth looking into during your college search.

9.  Do further investigation into the colleges after the fair.

  • Don’t let the brochures you picked up just go in the closet or a drawer and forget about them. Go through the information when the information is fresh in your mind from the college fair.

Good luck at the college fair and have fun!


Above Photo Credit (College Fair 13 by COD Newsroom licensed by CC BY 2.0 / Text added to original)

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