Strategies for Maximizing College Fairs

College Fairs
By the College Board

Booths, Crowds, Noise, and College Admissions
College fairs may not have peanuts, popcorn, and pony rides, but they can be very informative and even fun. College fairs give you the chance to talk to admissions officers and get the scoop on everything, from what courses are offered to life on campus. Fairs can also help you rule out colleges, as well as introduce you to new ones.

You find noise and crowds at most fairs, and college fairs are no different. Whether it's 10 colleges in your high school gym, or hundreds at a conference center—like the fairs sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling—fairs can be overwhelming. So, have a plan for before, during, and after you go.

Before the Fair
Ask your high school counselor when and where college fairs are being held in your area. Plan to attend as many as possible.

Characteristics to Consider
Before you set out, it will help to consider what you want from a college. Write down college characteristics that are important to you. You can use College Search's Advanced Search to find colleges with those specific characteristics. Review websites and catalogs of colleges on your list and write down questions that aren't answered in the materials. You should also ask questions about your own interests, such as activities you'd like to pursue and course requirements for the majors in which you're interested.

What to Bring
Before you head out the door don't forget to bring a pen and small notebook, your questions, and a bag to hold all the college brochures and information you'll get. Consider printing out self-stick labels with your address, contact information, and graduation date to stick on college information cards at the fair.

During the Fair
Navigating a college fair can be challenging. There are many booths to visit and people to talk to. Focus your visit so you can get some in-depth knowledge about the colleges that really interest you.

  •  Review the list of colleges at the fair and plan to visit the colleges that interest you most.

  •  If the fair provides a map showing where colleges’ booths will be, plan out a route to avoid back-tracking.

  • If the fair has information sessions with experts, block out time to attend those that interest you.

  • After you visit a college's booth take a few minutes to jot down what you've learned.

 Try to leave some time at the end just to browse through some of the booths you didn't get to—you could stumble on a great college you hadn't considered.

After the Fair
Spending the day at a college fair can be exhausting. You'll probably come home with a bag or bags full of information. Here are some post-fair do’s and don'ts to keep you on track:

Do: Relax when you get home. Take a break—you've earned it!

Don't: Put the college materials in the back of your closet. Keep them on hand for when you're ready to review them.

Do: Look through the materials, and your notes, within the week.

Don't: Keep everything. Weed out colleges that aren't a good fit.

Do: Research colleges that interest you. Explore websites, request more information from admissions offices, and plan to visit.