These days, we're hosting over 300 guests on campus every week (that's a lot, considering we have a student body of 2,000!), most of them admitted students who are visiting to confirm that Carleton's the place for them. In the hullabaloo of all these accepted seniors, it's easy to focus all of our attention on them. Have no fear! We haven't forgotten about the sophomores and juniors (and extremely eager freshmen).
We're right in the thick of college fair season, with admissions staff traveling all around the country and the world to meet with students at these busy programs. Wondering how to handle a college fair?
Bring a map. Okay, so we don't really mean it, but college fairs can be really confusing. Usually, the colleges are arranged alphabetically, but sometimes it's by geographic region, or by the order in which we registered. Once you figure out where Carleton is, take a deep breath and dive in to the crowd.
Figure out why you're at the college fair. Do you want to ask a specific question about a certain program? Are you hoping to get added to colleges' mailing lists? If you're a parent, are you there to guide the conversations, or to act as the sherpa of all the literature... or both? College fairs can be extremely overwhelming even if you already feel pretty savvy about the college search. Make sure you walk into the fair with an idea of what you want to get out of the experience... and if you're feeling overwhelmed, come talk to the Carleton rep!
Come with questions. We made this suggestion when talking about high school visits, and it's true for college fairs, also. At a college fair, you'll find an admissions officer, alumni, or a Carleton parent excited to tell you more about our school. We don't expect you to have a prepared list of questions, but if there's something you want to know about, don't be afraid to ask. That's what we're there for. Even that most basic of questions, "do you have a brochure I can take with me?" will do you wonders.
Bring a bag. College reps are at the fair to talk to you, but we'll also have a brochure we want to share with you. At the end of the night, you'll be grateful for a bag to carry home all your literature... and once you have all those pamphlets, schedule some time to curl up in a chair and leaf through, noting the things that catch or keep your attention. Once you're done with your literature and you don't want it anymore, see if your school's college office or a local non-profit organization can re-use the brochures.
Pre-printed address labels will save you a lot of time. We can't speak for every college, but generally speaking, colleges are looking to get more information on who you are. This isn't as nefarious as it sounds: we host programs designed for students with certain interests or backgrounds, we schedule return visits to areas where we sense a lot of interest (or growing interest), and we like to know our history of communication with students so that when you visit campus, we have a better sense of what you might already know. For this reason, you'll find that most colleges have some sort of blank information card they want you to fill out at the college fair. To save yourself the time of hand-writing your name, address, and academic interests over and over and over and over again, we encourage you to bring pre-printed address labels, which you can slap right on the info cards. To minimize your writing at the Carleton table, your label should include your name, address, e-mail address, high school, graduation year, and areas of academic and extracurricular interest. There are a few other things we'll ask for, but they won't take you much time. (P.S. - these are also extremely helpful for our staff who have to read and enter your info into the computer. Unless your handwriting is impeccable, trust us! The labels help.)
Ignore your friends. This might be surprising advice coming from Carleton, a place known for cultivating tight-knit friendships. But, it holds true at the college fair. This is about your college search, not theirs. Your friends, despite their many wonderful traits, might be looking for extraordinarily different college experiences than you are... and it's possible that the college fair will be the first time that you're realizing just how different your college dreams are. They might be looking for places with athletic scholarships, or the same sororities as their mothers, or outstanding Geology programs... none of which might interest you. Getting the picture? While it might be fun to have your friends by your side as you navigate through the crowds, trust us - you'll feel better at the end to know that you've done it by yourself, having the time to ask the questions that matter to you.
So, there you have it, just some basic tips to help make the college fair a little more bearable. See you soon!