"You get a chance to talk to representatives from all over the country and sometimes they'll even have them from other places," explains Alicia Englestad, career/post-secondary counselor at Palo Verde High Magnet School in Tucson. "It's great to go to those to get a little bit of information."
"And have your list of questions ready to go," Engelstad says on the bigfuture blog, sponsored by The College Board. "Things like the size of the school. Things like the size of the classes. Maybe what kind of
programs do you have? Have set up the ideas of things that are important to you."
College fairs also bring together companies that provide important services for college-bound students. You'll find folks to discuss financial aid, test preparation, setting up your dorm room and that all-important college essay.
For me, it's important to talk with as many high school seniors as possible about their college essays. Whether or not they choose to have me work with them on their essays, even a five-minute conversation at a college fair can make a big difference for you and your essay.
Just a couple of minutes chatting with me can make a world of difference for the student who's been struggling with his or her essay. We'll talk about the basics -- choosing a topic, writing a compelling intro, keeping the reader engaged. If I can get you on the right track (or back on the right track if you've gotten distracted), that five minutes is a monumental investment . . . . for both of us.
If you're in South Florida, I'd love to talk with you over the next two weeks. Look for me at The Center for Essay Excellence booth at the Boca Raton High School College Fair this Tuesday (Oct. 14), the Suncoast High School College Fair this Thursday (Oct. 16) and the countywide college fair on Wednesday, Oct. 22, sponsored by the Palm Beach County School District.
The countywide event expects more than 175 universities and career programs
But don't plan on just walking into these college fairs, or any college fairs around the country, and just wandering around. Make a plan and stick with it. Prepare your questions in advance and make sure you ask them.
"College fairs are unique opportunities for you to meet college admissions people face-to-face and begin the process of showing colleges your 'demonstrated interest,'" Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz writes in The Huffington Post. "They are especially useful if you don't have the time or resources to personally visit colleges.
"Not all colleges in the U.S. are represented at these fairs, but you will usually find at least some that are of interest to you. You never know, you might even find a few schools that you have never heard of that eventually end up at the top of your college list."
In the blog, Shaevitz -- founder of AdmissionPossible.com -- provides invaluable advice on how to prepare for a college fair: what to do beforehand, how to dress, what to do when you arrive, how to introduce yourself to college representatives and an all-important list of questions you should ask of the colleges where you're interested in attending.
Check it out . . . and come by and meet me at The Center for Essay Excellence booth at the three South Florida college fairs this week and next.
Arnie Rosenberg is the founder of The Center for Essay Excellence. He writes regularly about college essays and their importance to the college-admission process. Contact him at Arnie.Rosenberg.Editor@gmail.com.