We get this question a lot—from parents, students, educators, and college recruitment representatives. Getting the most out of your college fair is crucial for all attendees (and for the hosts of the event too), so we put together our ultimate guide to ensuring that you are able to get exactly what you want out of your college fair, depending on who you are and what you’re at the college fair for.
How Parents and Students Can Make the Most Out of College Fairs
If you’re a student (or a parent) planning on attending a college fair, it’s because you’re starting your search for the best school to help you reach your goals. Let’s be honest, there are a lot of options out there to sift through, especially if your student is waffling between one career or another, a university, community college, or tech school. Plus, with the age of internet classes and certifications, in some situations, traditional 4-year programs aren’t even necessary. It makes sense, then, that you’re considering attending a college fair to actually meet someone face-to-face or virtually, depending on the fair, from the program you (or your student) are considering. So now that you’ve made plans to attend, here are our top three tips for parents and students:
- Go early.
This rule can apply whether you’re attending an in-person event or a virtual college fair. Get there early, make connections early, and make sure the recruiter remembers your (or your student’s) name. A lot of students and parents take their time in the morning when a fair starts and end up getting there just as pretty much everyone else is. This limits your chances to have meaningful one-on-one interactions with recruiters or alumni.
While we advise going early when attending a college fair, we also advise starting early. For many events, there are no rules that state you must be a senior in order to attend a fair. Go when you or your student is a junior or even a sophomore. College recruiters are trying to fill their student pipeline, and getting an early in with you is going to help you both in the long run.
- Do your research.
We’ve seen it time and time again. Students and parents show up for an event, wander through it or click around in it, and have no idea what they’re looking for, whose attending, or even questions they should be asking. Don’t be those people. While you can’t always know who is attending a college fair, there are plenty of questions you can ask any college you are interested in to ensure you get a better idea of their program and their expectations. Always make sure you do your research about the career you’re interested in, and always make sure you have questions ready to ask the recruiter or alumni.
- Take notes.
We get it, there’s nothing worse than having to wander around with a notebook and pen all day in a crowded room. And then add trying to scribble notes without a proper surface to write on and while you’re just trying to get your questions out in a sea of other students and parents? It’s challenging.
Unfortunately, it’s also necessary. Even if you just write a few things down, like questions you want to ask when you speak to the recruiter after the fair, program highlights they spoke to you about that you want to know more about or even things you’ve heard about the program that you’re worried about, it’s all grist for the proverbial mill. Those little scribbles in your notebook are going to jog your memory when it’s all over, and it’s going to help you in future conversations with that school.
How Educators Can Make the Most Out of College Fairs
Sometimes, educators are just as important to a college fair as the students themselves. That’s because you have a relationship with every student there if you’ve been teaching them throughout high school, and chances are you’re also familiar with their parents. Educators play an important role in coaching students prior to college fairs, helping them determine the right colleges for them, and ensuring that on the day of the event, they have everything they need to be successful. Here are our top 3 tips for educators:
- Prep ahead of time.
If your school (or a local school) is hosting a college fair, make sure you get your students involved early. This can include lessons taught during class about building a resume and portfolio, conducting yourself during an interview, and asking the right questions at the right times. Many educators set up mock events to help students get over their first-college-fair jitters and require their class to interview their classmates. Educators play a key role in ensuring their students are prepared for the event whether it’s online or virtual.
- Teach the art of the follow-up.
Sure, you want to help students get ready for the big day, but you also want to follow up after the event. Many students have no idea how to reach out to recruiters, what to ask, or how to proceed once they have an idea of the program or programs they’re most interested in. These things can all be included in lesson plans that follow the college fair event. Encourage students to follow up with two or three of the recruiters they spoke to, ask them to evaluate what they liked or didn’t like about the people they spoke with. Invite them to identify things they would have done differently now that they’ve been through the experience. There are plenty of ways to grow their minds and encourage critical thinking after a college fair.
- Don’t underestimate your influence.
Our first two tips for educators centered around how you can use college fair attendance as an impetus for your lesson planning. This tip? This tip is just a gentle reminder to not forget your influence over your students. Whether it’s words of encouragement or time spent in the classroom prepping for the fair or reflecting about the fair, you can and do make a big difference in every student’s life. Don’t underestimate yourself and your power to help students shape their future.
For educators at schools interested in hosting college fairs, you can also help your school organize a college fair.
How Colleges Can Make the Most Out of College Fairs
For colleges, college fairs, whether virtual or in-person, are key to ensuring your student pipeline is full of talented individuals. To get the most out of your college fair, we have just a few tips for you:
- Make a plan.
Have a plan in place for how many students you plan to speak to, what you hope to get out of the fair, what you’re going to bring and how you’re going to manage the fair. If you’re a smaller college, you may want to consider only sending one recruiter and an alumni. If you’re a larger college, or the event spans multiple days, you’re going to want to have your team of recruiters ready to fill their time slots over the course of the fair to ensure you can talk to everyone possible.
- Make it easy on yourself.
The pandemic (we know, we’re tired of talking and hearing about it too) has changed the way students, parents, and schools research technical schools, colleges, and universities. With the cost of rental cars and hotel rooms sky-rocketing (not to mention the ticket prices), more and more students are logging on to virtual college fairs and meeting recruiters that way. For many post-secondary institutions, this is also easier on recruitment teams and their budgets. That’s a win-win for everyone. Don’t be afraid to shift your recruitment strategies to accommodate more virtual college fairs. You’ll still be able to recruit top talent without the massive overhead of travelling, hotel rooms, and more.
- Get the biggest bang for your recruitment buck.
This tip ties to the last one. There are companies out there that specialize in the virtual college fair business, and they’re set up to cater to your every need in terms of putting your recruitment team in front of the nation’s top talent, without needing you to lift a finger. One such company is Ping by Tallo, an online platform designed to match post-secondary institutions with our diverse pool of talented individuals from around the country. The best part is that these students are able to view your school, the program you represent, and choose to engage with you—just like at an in-person event. With Ping, you don’t have to hope the right students show up at your booth because we make sure they do every time.
Interested in learning more about how a Ping event works? Check out our guide.
Getting the most out of a college fair, whether you’re a student, educator or school, parent, or college, requires planning ahead and strategy. Sometimes, it also requires a little creative thinking to ensure you’re not exceeding your set budget or taxing your teen or your recruitment team.