Sophomores and Juniors– It’s not too early to attend a college fair! (Seniors- by now I hope you have your short list of “reach”, “match” and “safeties” confirmed – but if not, please contact me ASAP to help narrow your list. Criteria: Academic, Social and Financial Fit)
For 10th and 11th grade students, the next two years are filled with exploration of potential majors and universities. I’ll be actively guiding your college research and introducing you to majors you may have overlooked that are a potential great fit given your emerging interests and academic strengths. I invite you to view my video:
College Admissions & Financial Aid Tips: HOW TO SELECT A COLLEGE and A MAJOR
I continue to receive inquiries from Senior families this late in the process who haven’t received accurate information about college majors, college choices and the affordability of attending an out-of-state private institution. Senior year is not the time to be confused. A strategic educational plan built during the freshman to junior years takes the mystery out of what to study, where to find “home” and finding and paying for college.
Some college fairs taking place in South Florida, include:
Annual College Fair at Boca Raton HS
Thursday October 4 6 to 8 p.m.
NACAC South Florida Fall 2018 College Fair
Sunday October 7 1 to 4 pm
Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center
Annual Palm Beach County College Fair
South Florida Fair Grounds
Wednesday October 17 6 to 8 p.m.
Please stop at my booth to say hello!
Attending a college fair gives you some exposure to the variety of colleges including those you may have overlooked. You have an opportunity to learn about academic majors, social life and to inquire about interesting and competitive summer programs that may be appropriate for current sophomores and juniors.
Seniors should have confirmed their list of colleges. A college fair is also an opportunity to gain information to narrow a list that may still be too long.
SENIORS: Should you attend visits by campus representatives at your high school during school hours? Quite frankly, if this means missing AP Calculus there is truly little you’ll learn about a college that you cannot read about at the college’s website. If the setting is a small one, collecting a card and having an opportunity to follow up with an email to a campus representative can have a very small marginal impact.
Some tips for making the most of your college fair attendance:
1) STAY CONNECTED
If you have time, pre-print some cards/sticky labels with your name, high school, graduation date and email address to avoid having to fill out forms while at the fair!
Collect business cards from admissions representatives. If you learned something unique and valuable, send a thank-you email within 48 hours (see more below). Some colleges, such as Princeton University have a practice of keeping copies of all student communications in your admissions file.
Please make sure the email address you’re using isn’t a source of embarrassment. If you don’t already have a firstname.lastname Gmail or yahoo account- now is the time to create and utilize that account for all your college communication.
Previously I wrote about locking down your Facebook account. If you hit the “like” button for a college, this gives them full access to your page. Please don’t post pictures that present a less than flattering image. Yes, you’re 15 or 16 years old and having a great time at this stage of life. That said, use your best judgment on how you present yourself. Please set your FB privacy settings so only “friends” get to see photos rather than “friends of friends”.
2) INFORMED INTERESTIn my previous blog I spoke about the importance of demonstrating informed interest in your college application. If you have a short list of schools, do your homework and make the most of your time at the college fair. Don’t wander the aisles. You cannot stop at 100 college booths in two hours.
Make a plan to target the schools of interest and bring a specific list of questions that you CANNOT find answers to on the college’s website. Ask admissions officers the tough questions:
“What percentage of graduating seniors have found employment six months after graduation?”
“What percentage of freshman find a summer internship through the career center?”
“Our family isn’t eligible for financial aid. Does your college offer merit based scholarships?”
“What’s the maximum class size and the average class size in my intended major?”
“What percentage of classes are taught by actual full-time faculty as compared to adjuncts and graduate students”
“Is alcohol a ‘problem’ on campus?”
“What support services exist for academic and emotional support if I need it?”
“I’m considering a career in medicine. When will I be assigned a pre-health professions advisor?”
After you’ve hit your target list of schools, time permitting — be adventurous and wander into the booths of schools that you never heard of and perhaps you’ll be very surprised.
Well, not exactly. You’re not attending a career fair (that occurs in college) and you don’t need to have a 2 minute pitch about yourself. Your opportunity to sell yourself is during the college admissions cycle on your Common Application. The college fair is for YOU!!
Admissions and alumni representatives want to interest you in the college they represent. So don’t be shy, speak up and ask the tough questions above.
Parents, your child is wonderful and you mean well, but nothing screams louder than a chatty parent as a potential indicator of a student’s lack of independence and self-direction. Please while it might seem obvious, don’t “brag” to the admissions representative with a pre-rehearsed annotated resume– no one is making an admissions decision at a college fair. In fact, parents, it would be best if your son/daughter does most of the talking outside of questions about financial aid and campus safety!
Students: That said, think of a college fair as a college interview on training wheels.
Learning to feel confident speaking with admissions representatives as a sophomore and junior is great practice for the alumni and campus interviews taking place during your senior year. Take chances, make mistakes, and just dive in! There’s nothing you can say that will be remembered and held against you later.
4) SUMMER PROGRAMS
Sophomores and juniors should use the evening to gather information about competitive summer programs in potential academic areas of interest. In particular, women and minorities should ask about special programs that are designated in majors typically under-represented by women and minorities. Such programs are highly competitive and often free of cost.
Dr. Rabin Visiting Clients at Cornell Summer College
5) PLANNING FOR SPRING CAMPUS VISITS
The college fair is an excellent opportunity to jump start your campus research in anticipation of junior year campus visits.
Ask about upcoming campus visits that are scheduled specifically for juniors or for admitted seniors. As noted, some colleges schedule “diversity” weekends and offer financial assistance for attendance.
6) AFTER the FAIR
a) Send a thank you note to any admissions officer that spent more than 2 minutes with you to hand you a brochure. If you shared a joke or an experience, reference the memory jogging point of your conversation. Sending a thank-you note is an opportunity to reinforce your interest in the school.
b) Organize the materials collected while things are still fresh in your mind. Review which colleges stood out and take some time to enter a few thoughts in your notes to set the stage for subsequent college research, a potential campus visit and an input into a summer application essay.
c) Discard any brochures of colleges you’ve eliminated so you can stay focused on schools that interested you the most.
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.