Make the most of your time at college fairs. Here are some great tips from an article by Jodi Okun.
1. Conduct Preliminary Research: Try to find out which colleges will be at the fair. Depending on the event, there can be twenty or more representatives, and it is ineffective to just wander around trying to see if anything catches your attention. Once you know which schools will be attending, take a brief look at their websites to see if they match your preliminary college criteria. Then make a list of the top five or ten you want to see, depending on the time you have available.
2. Have a Few Questions in Mind: You don’t want to just “wing it” with this opportunity. Have a few questions in mind about your area of study, cost of attendance, college life, graduation rates, and earnings potential. Be prepared to write down their responses so you can start comparing schools on their basic information when you get home.
3. Make a Good Impression: You want to be polite and show the appropriate interest in the schools, but you don’t want to monopolize their time either. This isn’t a formal interview, and the representatives want to be available for other students. If you are really interested and want to talk more, ask if you can call the admissions office or find out when you might be able to take a campus tour.
4. Be Open to Other Opportunities: At 17 or 18, it is entirely possible that you don’t have your whole life mapped out yet. You might think you have an interest in a major or a certain area of study, but be open to other opportunities that are being presented. Listen attentively and see if there is something you hadn’t considered which might attract your interest.
5. Focus on Financial Aid: If there is a forum or seminar on financial aid, plan to attend it so you can start learning about the entire process. You may be able to ask the college representatives you speak to about their financial aid packages in general, but you need to know some of the terminology first. They won’t be able to give you specific information until they see your academic record and receive your FAFSA, but try to determine if they have need-based or merit-based grants and scholarships which might improve your likelihood of attending that particular school. Ask what type of loan burden the typical student at their college has upon graduation.