This was my first time at a college fair. I had attended National Portfolio Day with my oldest which really requires a strategy (as well as pre-registration). Compared to National Portfolio Day, the National College Fair in Boston was tame.
Held at the Seaport World Trade Center, the Boston National College had over two hundred colleges and universities in attendance including a great representation of international schools. It wasn’t surprising that New England colleges were well represented especially those in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and, of course, Massachusetts.
What did surprise me was that highly selective colleges with 20% acceptance rates or lower were not there. I just assumed that they would be there as they come to our high school’s college fair night. But even if a highly selective school is the goal, I think it’s important to apply to a range of schools so this is a great place to talk to a lot of colleges and universities efficiently.
The college fair started at 6:00 pm on the first day and there was definitely a crowd around the door fifteen minutes before it started. After everyone entered the conventional hall, it was so vast that it felt quite empty. Most of the colleges did not have anyone talking to them. Even colleges that had a throng of interested students had multiple staffed tables which mitigated the line.
The admissions staffers that we talked to could not have been nicer or more helpful. I think that is the message that I want to stress: the college admissions people at fairs would LOVE to talk to high school students. While it can be intimidating to talk to adults, this is a low-stress environment.
Some Tips to Talk to Admission Staff at College Fairs:
- Research which schools are attending
- Prioritize which schools you want to talk to
- If it is not crowded, practice talking to admissions staff at a school you are not considering
- Prepare a few questions ahead of time. The questions can be the same for each school you talk to
- Make sure the school has your information. At this fair, there was a scanner that the admissions could use on your admissions code to track that you stopped by. This counts as “demonstrated interest” so make sure you get credit for each school that you talk to! We had to ask each college if they would scan our code.
Sample Questions that Generally Work for Any School:
- Tell me about undergraduate housing options
- How’s the food?
- What percentage of students are from out of state?
- Will you be visiting my high school in the coming year?
- Do you allow a gap year?
- What percentage of students travel abroad?
- What percentage of students are from [my state]?
- How would you describe the personality of your college?
- What are some of the things that make your college unique?
- What colleges do you consider to be the most similar to yours?
There was also a college advising center there with counselors from area high schools and other educational agencies. They were there to give free advice on the admissions process, financial aid, majors, testing, college selection process, gap year programs, and scholarships. They were a great resource that we did not utilize.
As a high school student, attending a college fair is FREE. You don’t have to register for this event as they did not check registration at the door but I highly recommend it so that you can let the colleges you talk to scan your QR code so they get your information.
I’d love your tips on how to talk to college admissions folks at college fairs. Thanks for sharing!
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