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Fair Advantage

What you need to know about college fairs

Fair Advantage

You won't find a ride or yummy treats at these fairs, but college fairs can help you through the maze of college, university, technical and liberal-arts schools from which you'll have to choose.

College fairs are one of the best sources of information if you're looking to continue your education beyond high school. There you'll find the information that, if used properly, can help you make the all-important decision of where to go to college.

But when there are other resources, such as the Internet and tons of viewbooks sent in the mail, why should you attend a college fair? Answer: While text-based resources are valuable, they lack the one-to-one contact with school representatives that fairs provide. College representatives can give you specific information about their college's programs and campus that you might not find in a brochure.

College education fairs offer the opportunity to get your questions answered, narrow your choices and make a difficult decision a little easier. Before you go, read this.

Finding a fair
There are numerous education fairs offered in the spring and fall. “In the spring of their junior year of high school, students start to take part in local and regional fairs,” says Tom Fletcher, a university admissions officer. “Between your junior and senior years, you can visit those colleges. Then in the fall, seniors can touch base with those schools again.”

Check with your high school to find a fair near you, or look at the Web sites of colleges that interest you for their fair dates and locations.

Go prepared
Your research should begin before the fair. If you don't do your homework, you'll find yourself meandering from booth to booth picking up too many pamphlets to ever read. Fletcher recommends that you make a list of schools about which you'd like to learn more. Think about the size, location, cost and housing opportunities you expect in a school. This list will give your search direction, allowing you to make the most of your time at the fair.

Once you have a general idea of the booths you want to visit, write down questions for the school representatives concerning admission requirements, costs, offered programs and help for those with undecided majors. Fletcher suggests also asking about the school's campus, on-campus job opportunities, extracurricular activities and career-counseling services.

College fair representatives are there to help you and answer your questions. “Representatives, depending on the size of the fair, are able to give a significant amount of time to people who have specific questions,” Fletcher says. Fletcher also says it's important for you to keep a personal profile of your class rank, grade point average, SAT scores and special talents on hand to give representatives an idea of your educational background.

Once you have your list of schools, questions and personal information, you're ready to hit the fairgrounds.

At the fair
All those booths filled with material can be overwhelming. It can be confusing to visit booth after booth and remember who said what. Feel free to take notes.

Representatives are willing to invest more time in someone who appears to be taking the fair seriously. Also, ask representatives for their business cards and phone numbers. This will give you a contact at the school, should you have further questions if you apply.

Visit the booths of the schools on your list first, but don't feel you must stick strictly to the colleges you chose beforehand. If you have time, peruse your other options. There might be a school you overlooked that fills your requirements.

Along with your bag of pamphlets and catalogues, you should leave the fair with answers to your pre-determined questions. Leave the fair confident that you have done something positive to help your college decision. But your work is not done yet.

Compare the information to find the school that best meets your needs. Write what you liked or disliked about each school to help you sort through the large amounts of material you've received.

Use every opportunity you have to visit a fair, and get exposure to as many different colleges and universities as you can. Taking advantage of college fairs now will help calm the circus of choices in your future.


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