College Fair Essentials: What to Do Before, During, and After

Last updated Mar 12, 2024 

Whether you’re a junior who has already begun creating a college list or a sophomore just starting to research colleges, college fairs are one of the best ways to learn more about your options and the college admission process. Get answers to your burning questions from admissions representatives, check out colleges you might have overlooked, stand out while demonstrating interest, and attend information sessions covering topics ranging from financial aid to writing college essays. Find out more about what to do before, during, and after a college fair to make the most of this essential part of the college admissions process.

Before the College Fair

Find a fair and register. High schools will typically hold a college fair at some point during the school year, making it your first and most accessible college fair option. Don’t miss out on other opportunities like regional fairs (e.g. PACAC College Fairs) or fairs based on more narrow criteria, including specific academic interests (e.g. STEM, performing arts). Many state school systems, such as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), which includes West Chester University and Millersville University, also hold their own college fairs. Once you find a fair, register in advance to guarantee more time interacting with admissions reps and less time filling out paperwork.

Do your homework. Review which colleges will be in attendance at a fair and create a shortlist of must-visit booths. Do some background research on the schools that interest you the most. You will have a limited amount of time with each representative, which means the questions you ask should stick to information that you can’t find easily online.

Brainstorm questions. A college fair is your chance to go beyond what you can find on a college’s website, which means fewer questions about majors offered and more questions about the atmosphere on campus, popular professors, or the characteristics of successful students at the school. Compile a list of at least three questions for each school that are a mix of general and creative.

Meet with your counselor. College fairs can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. Make an appointment with your school counselor to discuss your needs and goals, so you can better identify the colleges to approach at the fair and develop a list of questions that will help you refine your college list.

Consider timing. When it comes to college fairs, consider quality over quantity. Instead of trying to grab every brochure and talk to each admissions rep, review the list of colleges attending a fair and prioritize which ones to visit, factoring in how much time you expect to need at each booth. Schools at the top of your list, for example, should be visited first and be allotted more time.

Test drive technology. Many college fairs are held virtually, so it’s important to download any necessary software and make sure it works prior to the start time. Also, whether you attend a college fair in-person or online, you will need an email address that won’t raise any eyebrows. Use your school email address or any address that sticks to just your name and initials.

Dress for success. Casual or professional? If you’re not sure what to wear to a college fair, choose an outfit that meets somewhere in the middle. The goal is to look put-together but also show off a bit of your personality. Use common sense: avoid graphic tees, crop tops, and ripped jeans. Choose dress shirts, khakis, polo shirts, skirts (not too short!), and a comfortable pair of shoes.

Come prepared. Bring along a water bottle, notepad, pen, map, and a bag for carrying all of it, including any brochures you pick up. Admissions representatives may ask you to fill out a card demonstrating your interest, so spare your hand and streamline the process by printing out a page of sticker labels with your contact information.

During the College Fair

Make connections. Do your best to chat with representatives from the colleges that interest you. It’s your chance to show how serious you are about a school while also getting answers to questions that may ultimately help you add/delete and rank colleges on your list. How do you make a good impression? Introduce yourself, make eye contact, and ask relevant questions. Admissions representatives want to get a sense of who you are, so focus on conveying confidence and a genuine interest in your future plans. Avoid putting reps on the spot by asking about your chances for admission.

Attend information sessions. Many college fairs will offer information sessions for students and parents on college admissions topics, such as financial aid or athlete recruitment. Getting advice directly from college counselors is an opportunity you won’t want to miss!

Take notes. College fairs are fast-paced, noisy, and exciting. To make sure it isn’t all a big blur, take notes as you make your way through the fair to keep track of your thoughts, answers to questions, contact information, and anything else that will help you either curate your college list or follow up with a specific school’s admissions representative.

Explore a variety of options. Whether it’s before the fair or as you are making your way from booth to booth, make a conscious effort to check out at least one or two colleges that may be a bit off your radar. If, for example, you are interested in larger schools, explore a medium and a small school. Different perspectives often open our eyes to new ideas and opportunities. Even if you don’t end up adding one of these schools to your list, the experience could help you clarify your college preferences.

After the College Fair

Review the experience. As soon as possible, unpack your college fair experience. Review your notes and other materials you may have gathered to assess your next steps: make changes to your college list, learn more about a particular school, plan a college visit, and generally evaluate if you need to adjust your college list criteria.

Follow up. Any school that made a particularly good impression or that ranks high on your college list should receive a follow up email within 24 hours thanking a college rep for his or her time and referencing something specific you talked about at the college fair.

How A+ Can Help

College fairs are just one piece in the college admissions puzzle. If you need help creating a college list, navigating deadlines and admissions requirements, or writing essays, A+ Test Prep and Tutoring offers College Admissions Coaching services to guide you through the various stages of the process. Our experienced college admissions coaches use a holistic approach that not only supports you throughout every step of the college application process, but also helps you learn about yourself.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, contact us here.


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