What NOT To Do At The College Fair

Attending a college fair is an important part of the college admissions process. The college fair is a great opportunity to jump-start your college research. It might be your first opportunity to talk to someone that is affiliated with the colleges you are interested in attending. And, it might open your eyes to other colleges you weren’t even thinking about researching.

Did you know that the impression that you make at the college fair could follow you through the college admissions process? Many colleges keep notes on their applicants. With the acceptance rates going lower and lower at colleges, it is important to make yourself stand out positively to the colleges. This includes making a good impression at the college fair.

As a former Admissions Counselor and Admissions Director, I’ve attended hundreds of fairs. I know what will and WILL NOT impress the person on the other side of the table.

Here is a list of things NOT to do at a college fair:

  • Don’t dress inappropriately. You don’t have to dress up in a suit and tie or a business suit. You can come to the fair in casual clothing like what you wear to school. But…
    • Don’t wear clothing that is too revealing.
    • Don’t wear clothing that has words or pictures that could offend someone. Wearing your favorite sports team, or even your favorite college isn’t bad; however, don’t wear something with curse words or inappropriate phrases or pictures.
  • Don’t disrespect the person behind the table.
    • Even if it is a college you’re not interested in attending, your actions could reach the college representatives at the colleges you are interested in attending. Many college representatives know each other and talk. You see, the college representatives were probably at the same college fair the previous night and they’re all going to another college fair the next night. They are probably friends, hang out outside of the college fairs and talk.
    • If the person behind the table is “just” an alumni representative or current student, it doesn’t mean you can treat them with disrespect. They will go back to the Admissions Office and share their thoughts on the people they met at the fair.
    • If you meet an Admission Counselor at the fair, they are probably the person that will make the decision on your application.
    • No matter who it is at the table, treat them with respect. Keep in mind – they may be keeping mental notes that will eventually find their way to your file.
  •  Don’t Talk or Text on Your Cell Phone While Talking to the Representative.
    • It’s rude and disrespectful.
    • If you have to pick up your phone while talking to the representative because it’s very important, excuse yourself and let the representative know you have to take the call.
      • Keep in mind that “important” doesn’t mean that your friend is calling to tell you where they are at the fair. Think before picking up the call – if it can wait, let it wait.
  •  Don’t Go Into The Fair Too Early.
    • Many of the larger fairs, like the NACAC Fairs, will have “guards” at the door and will not let anyone in until the start of the fair. But, smaller fairs, like the ones held at high schools, don’t hold students back from entering the fair before the official start time. Give the admissions representatives this time to prepare their tables and prepare for a few hours of talking with interested students. They need this time.
  • Don’t Stay After The Fair.
    • College fairs have specific hours for a reason. Arrive at the fair at the beginning so that you can visit all of the colleges you want during the official fair hours. Don’t stay late and keep the admissions representatives after the fair.
      • If the fair is in the day, the admissions representative might have to drive to another event and does not have much time to spare.
      • If the fair is in the evening, the admissions representatives probably had a long day of college fairs or high school visits and needs the rest. Plus, they might have a long drive ahead of them after their fair.
  • Don’t Cut In Line.
    • You’re not the only person in a hurry. Most people will have a list of colleges they want to visit before the end of the fair. Be respectful to the representative at the table and the other people at the fair.
    • If the line at a particular table is too long, you might want to go to the next college on your list and return to that college a little later once the line has become shorter.
  • Don’t Use A College Tables To Fill Out an Information Card for Another College.
    • Only use a table if it belongs to the college you are getting information from. If you use the table of another college, you could be in the way of someone that is truly interested in that particular college. Be respectful of their space.
  • Don’t Come Unprepared.
    • Most college fairs are only a few hours. Although it may seem like a lot of time, once you’re there, it will go quick and you’ll be asking yourself, “where did the time go?” by the end. If you come prepared with the list of colleges you want to see and the questions you want to ask, you’ll leave feeling good.
    • When you come unprepared, you’ll probably seem unprepared to the college representative. Being prepared when talking to college representatives will make a great impression; being unprepared will ALSO make an impression (and it will not be the impression you’ll want to make!).
  • Don’t Let Your Parents Do All The Talking.
    • It’s great that your parents are attending the college fair with you. But, you’re the one that will be attending college. Ask the questions you have for the representative. Your parents can ask questions too, but you shouldn’t stand back and be shy. Remember, the college fair is a great place to make a good impression on the college.
    • Also, don’t be rude to your parents at the college fair. This could be very awkward for everyone, including the college representative you are trying to impress.
  • Don’t Grab-and-Go.
    • As I said before, the college fair is a great opportunity to speak face-to-face with someone on the “inside” at the colleges you are considering. Take the opportunity to ask your questions and make a good impression on the representative at the table. You might not have this opportunity again.
  • Don’t Steal Pens or other Give-Aways.
    • Even when you’re trying to be sly, most of the college representatives see you. I don’t know how many times people would walk by the table, not make eye contact with me, put their hand at the table, grab a pen and keep going. If they would have asked, I would have been happy to give them a pen. This behavior just upset me when I was a representative.

The college fair is an important part of the college admissions process. To make it a successful fair for you, don’t do any of the things listed above!

Good luck at the fair!


Above Photo Credit: “College Fair 27” by COD Newsroom licensed by CC BY 2.0 |Text added to original.

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