Sep 21, 2009

Fall Is A Great Time To Visit Area College Fairs

Fall is in the air, and college reps all over the country are hitting the road. It’s college fair season, and you are cordially invited to attend one or several fairs depending on where your favorite colleges or universities happen to visit this year.

With the downturn in the economy, these large free gatherings of college admissions reps are bound to be very popular as families look for ways to save money by reducing travel or skipping a few campus visits. If you’re well into the college application process or just beginning to think about what lies ahead, a college fair can be a great way to gather information and meet admissions staff some of whom could eventually read your application.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACC) offers the following reasons for high school students and their parents to seek out college fairs:

1. Personal Contact: Fairs promote direct contact with representatives from hundreds of colleges in one place—usually a convention hall. It’s an opportunity to speak with a human being instead of relying solely on websites or the internet.
2. Aid Information: Some fairs have separate presentations on financial aid options and how to go about obtaining financial assistance. Colleges also provide school-specific information, with many handing out separate pamphlets on their own financial aid programs.
3. Free Advice: Some fairs offer counseling centers where students can get more general guidance on colleges and the college application process. They may also have resource centers for those seeking specific information on testing, financial aid, student loans, or state scholarship information.
4. Budget Savings: Driving to a nearby fair is a good deal cheaper than visiting a bunch of colleges in which you may or may not have real interest. While there’s nothing like setting foot on a campus to get a feel for it, fairs can help parental travel budgets by whittling the list of schools students feel they must visit.
5. Demonstrated Interest: If a student attends a college fair and signs up to be on a mailing list or takes time to meet with a rep, it may go down as “demonstrated interest,” which could help improve chances of acceptance down the road.

Some fairs offer pre-registration options, but most are walk-in events. Prepare for the fair by looking at which colleges plan to be in attendance and highlight those you want to visit, including a few less familiar schools. It’s a good idea to print out a handful of labels with your name, mailing address, phone number, month and year of high school graduation, and an email address. These can be quickly applied to mailing list cards, leaving more time to meet with reps. Be sure to bring a backpack for all the materials you will be receiving, but remember to only take what you need. And finally, ditch your friends. You’ll get much more out of the event if you do it on your own.

Some of the most popular DC area fairs are the NACAC National College Fairs (Baltimore and Washington DC), the NACAC Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs (Washington DC), the Fairfax College Fair (Fair Oaks Mall), Colleges That Change Lives, and College Expos (Baltimore County and Dulles Expo Center). Other popular fairs include the Black College Expo and the Hispanic College Fair. You can also check individual college websites for travel schedules and lists of smaller fairs scheduled throughout the fall and into spring.

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