October is College-Fair-O-Rama!
I’m at my home away from home, the Hartford Airport (technically, my home away from home is the Nashville airport, but I know this place pretty well too), waiting to head back to Nashville for a quick turnaround (home for less than 16 hours). I flew up for just one college fair last night, and will attend 2 more fairs this week. After my last blog about why I visit high schools, I thought I should follow that up with a similar topic- college fairs. While you can certainly get all of the official Vanderbilt information from our website, or from the material we mail to your house, college fairs still serve a real purpose in the college admissions process.
Sidenote: I caution that looking at general college guidebooks or websites may result in your receiving outdated information (you want the most updated information, such as admit rates, right?), but that information received directly from the college website (or brochures mailed recently to your house) will be accurate.
In addition to conveying information, the college fair puts a personal touch on the overwhelming college admissions process. To see a friendly face (mine), and to hear that I am the person reading your application can be a bit reassuring (or so I have been told).
Probably the most valuable aspect of a college fair is that it showcases the huge variety of college options available. For a student who is still trying to determine what kinds of schools are a match for him (small or large, rural or urban, close to home or further away, etc.), the college fair is one big shopping trip. I think that too often a student (or perhaps her parents?) gets fixated on just one school, when actually there are several places that she can be happy and successful. To walk into a room and see hundreds of universities represented can be a huge relief- there are so many to choose from!
Now, since I have convinced you that college fairs are worthwhile, I have some compiled some suggestions on how to best present yourself, and to get the most out of your time.
College Fair Tips
1. Arrive with a set of pre printed labels to avoid having to fill out the same information over and over again. At a minimum, your label should have your name, complete address, email address, phone number, high school name, and high school graduation year (VERY important). In addition, you are welcome to list your academic interests, standardized test scores, gpa (or class rank), ethnicity, gender, and any other information you want us to have.
2. It is OK to stop by a table, fill out an inquiry card (or stick on your handy label), take a brochure, and walk away. You don’t have to ask a question. If you are shopping, you may not have any questions about the school, which is fine. Filling out the inquiry card ensures that you will get lots of information about that school in the future.
3. If you want to ask a question, do me a favor and actually look at the brochure that you just picked up off my table before asking. That way, you will see the answers to your basic questions (i.e., “How big is Vandy?” “Where is Vandy?” “What are your majors?”), and you can ask me a more substantial one instead (i.e., “I see that Vanderbilt has majors in Electrical Engineering and Theatre. Can I pursue them both?’ Yes you can!).
4. Unless you welcome some good natured teasing, I would suggest that you not wear a t-shirt or hat advertising a college (or its athetic teams). I hope the reason is obvious- your choice will delight one rep in the room (if that college is even represented), but the rest of us may assume you have already decided that the school name plastered across your chest is the only one for you.
5. When you walk up to a table, it is a good idea to stop using your cell phone (texting or talking), and to stop the conversation you are having with your friends. Turn your attention to the college rep and the materials on the table.
6. As with the rest of the college admissions process, the student should direct the college fair experience. If you attend a college fair with your parents (as many students do), I encourage you to initiate the conversation, fill out the inquiry card, etc. Often I see a student stand behind his mom, who is filling out the inquiry card and asking me questions, while he seems to have no interest in the college fair. I think that that student is not ready to go to college; that he is not the kind of student I want to fight to admit during admissions committee.
Okay, I will get off my soapbox now. But, if I have saved just one student a hand cramp by suggesting that you pre print some labels for your next college fair, then I have done my duty here. I’m off to get some lunch and catch my flight. Happy College Fair-ing!