College fairs are full of opportunity and excitement, but they can also be overwhelming and confusing. Many students during their junior or senior year will find themselves attending a college fair as they begin learning about and applying to colleges.
New Hampton School is lucky to host its own college fair each fall, but it’s important that students are prepared to take advantage of this great opportunity before them. At Monday’s college fair, representatives joined us from 83 different colleges across the country. Prior to the event, we also hosted a panel for all of our juniors with representatives from four different colleges. Panelists from Elon, Davidson, Southern Methodist University and Rutgers answered questions and shared helpful advice about how to navigate a college fair and how to represent yourself to colleges of interest.
Here are a few of their most helpful hints:
- If you hope to visit with certain colleges, learn as much as you can about them prior to your visit and avoid asking questions about information that is easily available on their website such as “How big is your college?” or “Do you have an arts program?” Rather, ask questions about elements that are harder to understand such as school culture. For example, ask “How would you characterize your students?” or “What do students like to do on the weekends?”
- When you introduce yourself to a college representative and they ask, “Tell me a little more about yourself?” share information they won’t read on your application. Your application will show your grades and test scores, so use this opportunity to share more about other passions, interests, your background or hobbies. Also, make sure to introduce yourself. Shake hands, make eye contact and speak clearly. This may seem basic, but it’s important that the representative knows who they are speaking with.
- The college representative attending the fair is likely the same individual who will be reading your application, since many colleges representatives work regionally. If you are interested in a particular college, be sure to introduce yourself if they are attending a fair at your school or in your area. This is a great opportunity to make a personal connection and the representative will remember that you made the effort to do so and demonstrate your interest.
- College representatives are familiar with the schools in their region. They are aware of each school’s respective nuances, signature programs and differentiators. When they meet you and review your application they want to learn what you have done with the opportunities afforded to you at your high school. This doesn’t necessarily mean overloading your schedule with every program and leadership opportunity available, but how have you benefitted from your school’s programs to learn about yourself, take risks, and grow?
- Once you make a connection with a college representative, keep that connection. They review thousands of applications each year. When following-up with a school via email, or for an in-person visit, remind the college representative of your name, and that you met at a fair. This will help jog their memory and continue to demonstrate your interest in their school. As always, be professional and cordial in your follow-up email communication. You are applying to a college for admission, not texting with your friend.
The representatives that visited New Hampton were helpful, authentic, and thoughtful in their advice to our students. Following their introductions, they shared a little about their own experience applying to college and some of what they have learned since beginning their jobs in college admission.
New Hampton School students were well-prepared for the evening and for the fair. They asked good questions and made the most of the fair with many great colleges and schools to learn about. As they work closely with our college office, New Hampton School students are encouraged to keep an open mind and find the college with the right culture and fit that will best match their interests and needs.