Tips and Tricks: Getting the Most Out of College Fairs

Attending a college fair can be an exciting event or a total nightmare for students and families. It’s a unique opportunity to explore various colleges and universities all in one place, gather information, and make connections. However, the sheer size and number of people can also be overwhelming. To help you make the most of your college fair experience, we’ve compiled a list of the best advice for students and families. With these tips, you’ll navigate the college fair with confidence and purpose.

Before the Fair: Prep for Success
  • Pre-Register for the fair if it’s an option.
  • Create a List of College Priorities: What’s really important to you?
    • What degree(s) are you looking for?
    • How far from home are you willing to go?
    • What size school do you think you would thrive in: small, medium, or large?
    • Are you interested in specific extra-curricular activities or athletics?
    • Do you want a school in a rural, urban, or suburban environment?
  • Do a search to see which colleges will be attending and create a target list based on:
    • Programs and majors you are interested in
    • Admissions requirements
    • Location
    • Campus size, type and culture (which can be found on the college’s websites and comparison sites like Niche.com and bigfuture.org
    • Having a basic understanding of each school will help you ask informed questions and prioritize your visits.
  • Prepare a list of 3-5 questions. Reps will be swamped with questions from students, so prioritize what you want to know most. Some examples:
    • What kinds of students are happiest at your school?
    • What are the most important factors in getting admission and scholarships?
    • What financial aid programs does your college offer?
    • What is unique about (my major) at your school?
During the Fair: Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
  • Bring:
    • Your list of questions, a pen and notebook to take notes, and a reusable grocery bag to hold all the materials you pick up.  
  • Make a gameplan:
    • Get an agenda and map ahead of time if possible and see where the schools you want to visit most will be.
    • See if there are sessions or workshops on topics like financial aid or college essays. Plan to attend these, if possible, to learn from the experts.
  • If the fair is crowded, ask your most important questions, but be sure to allow others a chance to do so, too. You may only get one question at some tables, so be sure to listen to the questions and answers from other families.
  • Take a second to write down any information you think is important, collect materials and admissions contact information before moving on to the next booth.
  • If you make it through your list of schools with time remaining, then check out some of the other booths before you leave. You could luck into a college or information that you hadn’t considered before.
After the Fair: Synthesize and Document What You’ve Learned
  • That same day:
    • Go over any notes you took during the fair.
    • Document what you learned in the downloadable Complete College Advising College Comparison Spreadsheet. You’ll be overwhelmed with information and getting as much down before you sleep will help!
    • Recycle the materials from colleges you’ve ruled out. You want to focus on the colleges you’re still interested in.
  • Over the next week:
    • Ask yourself which schools impressed you and think about why.
    • Look through all the materials you collected and organize it in a binder, folders or filing drawer.
    • Keep exploring the colleges that you are still considering through their websites.
    • Set up campus tours as soon as possible at the schools that you are most interested in attending.

Attending a college fair can be an amazing experience! Done right, you will learn about exciting opportunities and reduce the effort needed to pick a college by  eliminating some schools from your list. Remember that fairs are just one step in the college search process, but they can provide valuable insights and connections. Use our tips and tricks to embrace the experience, stay organized, and explore your options—it’s all part of finding the best college fit for you.