October signals the official start of the college application season. High school students are gathering information, narrowing down choices and making decisions on where to apply. College nights/fairs will start popping up in your area. These are organized events where admissions officials from colleges all over the country attend to recruit students for attendance. I know what most of you are thinking, "I'd rather watch Family Guy..." I understand why this does not sound exciting, but here are some reasons everyone should go!
- Cost. Traveling across the country can be very expensive and time consuming for you and your family. To save a few dollars and maximize your time, College nights/fairs allow students to visit with several schools under one roof. Unlike a website or brochure, talking to an official from the school will give you better insight on if it is the right fit. Who knows, you may even discover a school that wasn't on your radar. This can help you narrow down your visits to the ones you are most interested in.
- Set yourself apart. This is an opportunity to stand out against the other applicants. Admissions counselors keep track of everyone who they talk to and being memorable can help. If you are interested in the school, make sure they know it! Share with the counselor that it is your "dream" to be accepted and get them to share what they love about the school. Come prepared to demonstrate your interest in the College. Questions that show you have done your research and have learned some facts that appeal to you will make you stand out. Get the counselor's contact information and follow up with a thank you card, every little bit can help you get accepted! Here is a list of some good questions that can set you apart.
- Take notes. Here is your chance to get all the pertinent information you need from the school. Make sure you understand the benefits of making the priority deadlines for admissions, financial aid and housing. Making these deadlines usually gives you the most options. Many schools charge application fees; if you are not able to afford these, ask if they offer fee-waiver plans. Last, be sure you understand what is necessary to hold your seat if admitted. Many schools require a deposit to be sent by a specified date to show your commitment. Ask for clarification on refund policies and options if you are not able to afford the cost. Here is another good list of question to help you prepare for the night/fair.
- Help to convince the parent. Sending kids off to school can be a scary time for parents. Worries over cost, safety, quality and proximity are swirling around in their heads. College nights/fairs offer the opportunity for Mom and Dad to ask question of their own to school officials that can help ease their minds. If you have a favorite school but your parents are skeptical, a discussion with an admissions counselor can convince them that you are making the right choice. Reassurance from a trusted official from the school may be just the push you need to get them over the edge.
- Attend a session. Many of the College nights/fairs offer seminars on various topics that include; how to pay for college, how to write a good essay, and even how to choose a roommate. These are free and can offer you the opportunity to learn tips from the professionals. The college application process can be very confusing, so there is no such thing as a stupid question. Here is a chance to ask and get real-time answers from those who know. Listening to questions from other families can be very educational too.
- Make a friend. Chances are you are not the only person in attendance who wants to attend your school of choice. If you hear a student show the same level of interest, introduce yourself. Knowing someone who is as excited about the same school as you could be a great asset. The ability to ask questions about where to live and what to bring is a great help. Try to attend orientation together. Knowing someone ahead of time can help alleviate the anxiety about leaving home for the first time.
Taking a few hours out of your week to attend a College fair/night is a great investment of your time. The more prepared you are, the better of an experience it will be. You can always watch a rerun of Family Guy, but the opportunities to improve your chances of being accepted do not come along often. Talk to your guidance counselors and watch for advertisements on College nights/fair in your area. It is a great way to manage the process of researching and selecting a College. If you have other questions along the way, The Community is a great resource to get them answered. Best of luck!