With the NACAC Fair coming back to New Jersey (April 24-25; NEW LOCATION: Meadowlands Exposition Center), it seemed a good time to update this blog about college fairs, college admissions folks and you.  The link for next week’s fair is towards the end of the article.)

Over the past few months, we’ve talked about several pieces of the college admission puzzle – admission interviews, SATs and personal statements being just three.

But the next topic is near and dear to my heart and is rarely discussed in online fora.  (Fora = plural of forum; always trying to help you with the SATs here)

I think the general consensus is that it isn’t that important.

I think the general consensus is – or, at least, can be – very wrong.

Meeting an admissions counselor or alumni volunteer at a College Fair can be an invaluable experience in your college search.  It can rewarding and it can be as “real” as any part of your college admission journey.

Admission counselors travel from hotel to hotel in their Ford Tauruses (Tauri?), living off fast food, PTA dinners and USA Today.  They do this because they love meeting people and love the concept of a College Education and are usually genuine about their enthusiasm about the College they are promoting.

They’ve generally already spent a full day working for the College and are excited about this opportunity to meet the students they have been sending all of that mail and all of those emails to. (To which they have been sending all of those….anyway…)

They want to talk to you. They don’t want you to just walk by and take a brochure (the same one they’ve mailed to you twice already).  They don’t want you to just “fill out a card” since you could have done that online without stopping at the table.  They want to talk to you, help you, guide you, make a friend, establish or strengthen a contact and – to put it in layman’s terms – possibly “make a sale”.

They probably will explain how their school can meet your needs, but they will also generally be fairly honest about where the fit may NOT be, how your background fits into the admission profile of the College and (if there is no match to be made) other schools that they are aware of that might fit your needs and wants.

So, go right up to that table. Talk to them about your academic, athletic and other relevant interests.  Have a conversation.  Ask them about the admission process and campus visitation policies.  You won’t regret it.  If they have a name tag, address them by their first name – it’ll make their day. You’ll find that you – to use a layman’s phrase – might just make a sale, as well.

Nice post, Mike, but what the heck is that title all about?

Oh, yeah, almost forgot – sorry.  I was at a College Fair once when I was working for a school that began with “College of”.  It was not in an area where we drew many (read “any”) students.  And, like most college fairs, the colleges were arranged alphabetically.  I found myself between Colgate and Cornell.  I expected a looooong night.  A funny thing happened.  I ended up in a few wonderful conversations with families waiting to talk to the representatives from those two better known institutions. And most of those conversations started with a glance from the student and a motion to the set of pens on my table.  And that’s when I got to utter the title phrase above, so that they could fill out the inquiry card for the colleges to either side of me.

But, ultimately, I gained a wonderful student that decided to come to my school (and did very well, by the way) and I enjoyed some great conversations.  All because I brought some extra pens.

So, go to your high school’s college fair, or a regional or national fair in your area.  For my New Jersey contingent, don’t miss the National Fair on April 24-25, at the (new location) Meadowlands Exposition Center.  Make a few friends, learn about a few schools and maybe even make an impression that makes the difference in terms of admission.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.

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