High school counselors and university recruitment experts weigh in on the best ways that a counselor can help students prepare for upcoming college and career events so as to make the most of them
College fairs can be a helpful, meaningful experience if students are well prepared to make the most of them. Counselors can help them by encouraging them to research colleges they’re interested in, to ask insightful questions, to prioritize the most important conversations, and to follow up afterwards.
College fairs are an incredibly important tool for students trying to plan their futures. However, for students at your high school to get the maximum value out of them, it is a good idea to have them prepare well.
The most important way you can help get them ready, then, is to ask them to consider why they’re going in the first place. The answer should be along the lines of: to find the college that’s the best fit for them. So the first question they should ask themselves is what they’re looking for in a college.
Then it’s a question of
Recommend that they note down key information about each school they plan to talk to, so they start from a position of knowledge. They are also more likely to make a good impression in this way.
These days college fairs are often held virtually, so students need to make sure they’re using reliable technology, including WiFi. We suggest trying out their device and confirming connectivity with the chosen platform in advance of the fair, to avoid any delays due to tech troubles. This is where platforms like Cialfo are useful, since students can log in even from a mobile app.
Students should also make sure they create a good impression, including being aware of what others might see behind them; a digital background can be a good idea.
“Ask questions about the application process, programs, activities and other things you want in a university,”
Francis Miller, Director of College Counseling, Xi'an Tie Yi High School, China
College fairs can also be a good chance to explore the intangibles. In college applications, students will often be asked why they’re applying to that particular college. A good conversation with a representative at a college fair can give them a very good idea what they’re looking for.
“Come prepared with questions that can’t be easily found on the university’s website,” suggests Kristen Allen, Head of University Counselling, Swiss International School, Qatar. There’s no point asking for general information that’s widely available – and avoid asking anything that one can just google.
Instead, students should ask open ended questions that demand a bit of thought from the representative. That will make the student stick in the mind and will also elicit the sort of answers that provide genuine insight into what a place is like as a student. They should also remember to take notes during the conversations.
I always recommend asking something that you can’t easily find from the schools website. For example what is the most popular major among international students, or even something more personal to the representative like what is your favorite aspect of your college or university?
Greg Friedman, Director of International Admissions, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science
“When visiting booths, ask college representatives questions like, ‘What kind of student are you looking for?’ or ‘What makes your campus special?’” says Cialfo Counselor Varisha Ishrat. “Jot down the important information you receive from the representatives.”
Many colleges also track who’s shown interest in them, so students should register their details with them, whether physically or digitally, remembering to fill out their information fully and clearly. Also, make sure they have an email address they can use that won’t make them look unprofessional.
The best questions to ask at a fair come after you’ve done your research on the university. This way, you’re able to go beyond the basics (GPA, SAT/ACT requirements, etc.), and can ask more questions about the campus culture, community, and your overall fit at that institution. You want to use this time to start visualizing if you see yourself on that campus.
Megan I Mankerian, Director of International Enrollment, Creighton University
“Students have too many things in their minds and can get influenced easily,” says Garima Kumar, Head, Career & Guidance Counselor Cell, Meridian School in Hyderabad, India. Counselors should help them prioritize which colleges they want to talk to; spending more, higher quality time with fewer but more relevant schools is better than trying to see everyone.
Having said that, there’s no reason for students to be rigid about who they see. Allowing for a bit of serendipity is always a good idea; a college they’ve never heard of could turn out to be the perfect fit for them. And do make sure they allow enough time to see everyone they want to without rushing.
Then there’s what happens after the event.
“Ask for ways to stay in touch, and always follow up with prospective university representatives,” says Cialfo Counselor Sucheeta Sahu.
That means reminding students to:
1. Collect contact information from the universities they’re interested in, including representatives’ personal business cards or email addresses where possible
2. Use the event as a starting point for a conversation with each of those colleges – including saying a personal thank you to the person they met.
Whether virtual or in-person, a college or career fair for high school students is a great way to explore their potential career paths and start planning their college applications.
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