What is a College Fair and How to Make the Most of it

It’s officially college fair season! High schoolers all around the country will have the opportunity to speak to representatives from dozens of colleges and universities – often all at once.

Understanding how a college fair works and what to do before, during, and after the fair will ensure you take full advantage of these great opportunities. Read on to discover more about college fairs and how to prepare.

What is a College Fair and Why Should You Attend?

A college fair is in a shopper’s fair format where you will be moving around the room from booth to booth talking to college representatives from different schools. A college fair is your opportunity to explore schools on and off your college “wishlist,” helping you better understand your interests and preferences regarding higher education, and what schools are looking for, too.

College fairs are often set up in gyms or venues where each school at the event has an individual table. Oftentimes, you’ll receive a list of which schools will be in attendance before the fair begins. 

A college fair is your chance to broaden your knowledge of your college options, to explore the distinctives offered by different institutions, and to ask questions you may not be able to find the answers to online. Many schools will give you contact cards, brochures, and other information pamphlets to take home. 

If you can’t attend in person, be sure to check out our virtual college fair. 

How to Prepare for a College Fair 

There’s no such thing as over-preparing when it comes to college fairs. In fact, preparing beforehand will allow you to make the most of the fair when you’re there. Here’s what you can do to make sure you make the most of your (and the representative’s) time:

  1. Register - Make sure to register beforehand. Doing so will provide you with a barcode used to share your contact information with the college reps. You won’t need to fill out a card at each table. 
  2. Get a Personalized List of Schools - After registering, students will receive an email with their personalized list of matched schools.
  3. Research Attending Schools - Research colleges that will be at the event, and prepare a list of which schools you want to talk to – prioritize them.
  4. Prepare Thoughtful Questions - As you research schools, you’ll surely think of specific questions you might not find the answer to online. Both students and parents should write down key questions to ask the college admissions staff, whether it’s about academics or finances. See a list of questions here
  5. Decide Who Will Go With You - Some students like to attend college fairs with a parent or guardian, while other students may prefer to go with their friends or on their own. Of course, the decision is yours, but consider who might be able to help you navigate the fair and get the necessary information to eventually make your choice.
  6. Dress Appropriately - While it’s not necessary to wear formal business attire, you don’t want to wear something you’d put on for the beach. Consider dressing in business casual (but comfortable clothes) as you’ll likely be on your feet for several hours.
  7. Arrive Early - Get to the fair a few minutes early so you can enter as the fair starts. This will allow you to visit the maximum number of college booths and make a great first impression. Rushing around is stressful!

What to do During a College Fair

Things can get pretty hectic during a college fair with all the booths, students, parents, and college reps around. Don’t worry, though, take a deep breath and stay calm because you’ve prepared and are ready! Here’s what to do during the fair:

  1. Get Your Fair Bag - Students will receive a bag upon arriving along with THE Guide to Christian Colleges and Universities. 
  2. Visit Your Top-Priority Colleges First - Visit the colleges high on your priority list first to ensure you have plenty of time to get questions answered.
  3. Be Patient - You may encounter lines, especially at well-known schools. Your turn will come, and try not to pass up an opportunity just because of a few extra minutes in line!
  4. Talk to Unfamiliar Schools - Leave time to explore schools that weren’t previously on your list. The purpose of a college fair is to get to know schools, especially new ones. Step out of your comfort zone and approach a college you didn’t plan to visit.
  5. Ask Your Most Important Questions - Ask the questions you need to get answered  first and then less specific questions. Time with each rep may be limited.
  6. Collect Information Cards and Brochures - Bring resources home with you so you can review fair information later. Be sure to hang on to contact information cards from representatives, which you can use to write a follow-up or thank you email. 
  7. Take Notes - Jot down important information in between booths.

How to Follow Up After a College Fair 

When the fair is over, it’s time to debrief and organize all the information you’ve just received. Here’s what you should do after the college fair:

  1. Revise Your College List - Add or cross off colleges from your list based on what you discovered at the fair. 
  2. Follow Up With Admissions Representatives - Send a follow-up email to the reps of the schools that interest you. Thank them and mention how nice it was to speak with them. You can also include any additional questions you have for them. 
  3. Debrief With Your Parents - You’ll receive a lot of information during this time, so talk to your parents or trusted guardian after college fairs about what schools stood out to you, what you learned, and which schools you want to cross off your list. Talking with people about the fair can help you better organize your thoughts. 
  4. Schedule a College Visit - Now that you have a better idea of what schools you want to apply to, you should consider scheduling visits to nearby schools. 

College fair season is an exciting time for many - especially high school juniors and seniors. It can also be stressful if you’re still unsure about where you’d like to go. Don’t worry, because there are plenty of resources including these guides to help you figure out the college search process.

Get a FREE college application checklist.