Organizing and hosting a college fair is a great way to let students (and parents) get an inside look at multiple colleges all at once. It’s also a great way for colleges, universities, and technical schools to meet a wide variety of potential students. Higher education recruitment teams around the country look to college fairs as a way to engage directly with interested students and build relationships that can’t be built if you’re just sending a piece of direct mail or hoping the student reads the website.
Whether you’re a high school looking to draw in colleges for your student body, or a state-sponsored organization interested in promoting state colleges, organizing a college fair may be the best (albeit stressful) way to accomplish your goals. Conversely, you also have the option of engaging with companies like Tallo who organize and build virtual college fairs for you. Here, we’ll discuss both options so you can get a better idea of what organizing a college fair means, and why it may be in your best interest to leave it to the pros and focus on recruitment efforts instead.
Planning Ahead, Scheduling, and Budgeting for Your College Fair
Before you can do the important stuff, like inviting colleges to your fair, you need to take a look at your schedule and plan a date. Make sure you leave enough time for both you and the colleges you want to attend to plan and prepare. You may also want to do a quick search, be it through NACAC or otherwise, to ensure there are no other fairs happening at that time that would force you to compete for the attention of your colleges.
Once you’ve determined a date, decide the sort of event you want to host. Is this going to be a college fair specific to a certain avenue of learning, such as STEM colleges, liberal arts colleges, or technical schools? Is this going to be a general college fair that invites all different types of colleges to ensure your students have a breadth of options available to them? There are so many different types of college fairs, and you’ll need to decide what yours will be.
Finally, you’ll want to consider your venue and budget. Is this going to be hosted in your gymnasium? Will you host it outdoors in the commons? Will you be providing tables and chairs or tents in case it rains? Will you need to rent them? How many colleges can comfortably fit in your venue? What sort of budget will you need to get approved to host this event? These are all important questions you’ll want to ask and answer before moving to the next step.
Inviting Colleges and Promoting Your College Fair
Once you’ve determined how much room you have, what your budget is, when you plan to host your event and what type of college fair it’s going to be, you’ll need to start reaching out to colleges. Depending on your goals, this may mean inviting local or state-only colleges, or, if you’re hosting a bigger event, this may mean trying to lure in some big-name colleges. Our advice? Start with the low-hanging fruit and work your way up the tree. Reach out to college reps who have already engaged with your student body in the past. Invite colleges that your students are typically interested in and apply to. Give your student body a variety of options, from community colleges to state colleges and private colleges.
Once colleges start accepting your invitation, ensure you have a plan in place that highlights your expectations for them. This means ensuring they know they can start setting up at noon on the day of the fair, that you’ll require both a college representative and alumni at the event, etc. These little details are all important to ensure a smooth experience and that each college knows what to expect and how you’re going to help them on the day of the event.
If your invites aren’t getting accepted, don’t get discouraged. There are plenty of colleges out there that are hungry for the opportunity to promote their institution. Continue promoting your event, what you offer, how many students will be in attendance, etc.
Start Inviting and Promoting to Students
You don’t just have to invite colleges, you also have to invite prospective students. If you’re a school, this might be easier than if you’re an organization. The important thing to remember is to reach outside of your normal pool of students. Invite other students from other schools, take out ads in the local newspaper, advertise on the local radio. Don’t forget to ensure you’re reaching out to parents too—they are instrumental in keeping their kids interested and engaged in determining their future. When they accept your invite, be sure to provide them with your recommendations of what they should bring to the event, how they should dress, etc. These guidelines can be helpful to students who have never experienced a college fair before.
Our final piece of advice? Don’t assume that everyone will remember. If you invite students months in advance, be sure to send reminders a month before the event, two weeks before the event, and even a couple of days before the event. This could be anything from direct mail to an email reminder. Don’t rely on someone to have it noted in their calendar because that could lead to less than stellar attendance.
Prepare Materials for Your College Fair
Some schools and organizations think that you just have the colleges show up and the students show up, and everything goes off without a hitch. We don’t advise this approach. Rather, you’ll want to have a variety of materials ready to go for the day of the event. This means things like a directory so students know what colleges are in attendance and where to find them on a map. You may want to have a cheat sheet of questions for students if they get nervous and forget what questions to ask. You can even include a little postcard that students and parents can fill out that lets them provide feedback.
Host Your College Fair On Ping By Tallo
When you host your virtual college fair on Ping, you take the leg work out of building an event—because we do it for you! We invite the colleges, we promote to students, and we ensure everyone has what they need for the day of the event. All you have to do is tell us what you’re looking for, who you’re hoping to bring to the event, and we take it from there.