Navigating college fairs

The decision to go to college has been made and now you ask yourself, “What do I do now?” Besides going on a cross country adventure, how do you learn what there is to know about a college or university without spending the money you’ve saved for college? How do you narrow down your options? A low cost alternative to traveling to each campus is to take advantage of your community’s college fair series. Whether the event is at the local high school or at your community center, you can visit with representatives from various higher education institutions all in one location and at no cost to you. Typically these events are offered during the fall so be sure to check out calendars now.

Once you find out where and when the event will take place, be sure to have a plan. The CollegeBoard.org provides a great checklist to be sure you get the most out of the college fair experience by breaking the checklist into three categories: (1) Before you go, (2) While you are there and (3) When you get home. I highly recommend printing the checklist to help keep you on track. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges/how-to-find-your-college-fit/college-fair-checklist

During the event it will be important to get the college representative’s contact information and take any notes that will remind you of your conversations at a later date. This will help you narrow down your options and make your selection about which school to attend a little easier. And be open minded; it is great to have a plan but you never know where your search will lead you. You may find a college or university that you had not considered that turns out to be your ideal fit. Also, be sure to ask a lot of questions, after all, college is an investment in your future and you want to make sure you get the best education for your financial commitment. You don’t want to make the mistake I did. My first year, I chose a school 8 hours from home that had only 900 students. At the time, it seemed like my perfect fit but once I got there, I realized that everyone went home on the weekends. I did not have a car, so for an out-of-towner like me, it was miserable. I lasted one year at the school, transferred to an in-state school and lost credits in the process. This extended the length of time I spent in college and ultimately increased my expenses… so be sure to ask all of the questions that might matter to you.

After the college fair event, you can refer to your notes and the information you gathered to narrow your focus to the schools that are your best fit. Your next step would be to visit those colleges if possible. The take away? Take the time to plan for the college fairs you plan to attend, and keep your eyes and ears open while you’re there. You will be happy you did! Good luck!

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