College Fair Do’s and Don’ts

SC Test Prep

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, juniors and seniors from Spartanburg County high schools will pour into Memorial Auditorium, all taking part in the annual CACRAO (Carolinas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers) college fair. Students will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to admission counselors (often the very people who will evaluate their applications in a few months), hear more about their schools of interest, and address any questions or concerns they have. It’s a wonderful opportunity to have any final questions answered before submitting an application and to make a strong personal impression that might contribute to an admit decision later on.

Unfortunately, as a former admission counselor speaking from the other side of the college fair table, many students go about this experience in entirely the wrong way.

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to help you make the most of your college fair visit:

DON’T spend more time than you need to at the college fair and DON’T come away with a wheelbarrow of brochures.

Though you can start your college search at a fair and many students do, that is not the best use of the time. Instead, do your research before you go, know the schools you’re interested in and the questions you have, and spend your time talking with the counselors from those schools. Think quality over quantity. Three 10-minute conversations with counselors about something other than basic admission criteria is far better than an hour spent collecting information from 30 schools.

DO your research beforehand.

Approach counselors with personal and appropriate questions based on your goals and personality, not just with generic questions about ACT/SAT scores or average GPA. From an admission counselor’s perspective, when students are truly interested, they have already found this information. The inverse is also true: if a student has given enough thought to their college plans to ask detailed questions about the programs and opportunities a school offers, an admission counselor is likely to be impressed by that student’s maturity and diligence. At the very least, it will break up the monotony of the questions most counselors find themselves answering at each fair.

DO consider this a primary opportunity to make a positive first impression.

You don’t necessarily have to dress up, but flip-flops, cargo shorts, and a t-shirt are not appropriate. Dress as though you consider the admissions counselors’ opinion of you important, because, for better or worse, it is. Their decisions about your applications affect your life for the next several years. Furthermore, please speak clearly, and even if you do not feel comfortable shaking hands (though you should), look each counselor in the eye and introduce yourself when you approach their table. I can promise you, they will be taking note and remembering.

DON’T ask about “your” GPA or minimum requirements for admission.

No admission counselor wants to admit a student who is only interested in the minimum required for anything. Keep in mind that for many counselors, language and word choice are clear indicators of intelligence and maturity. With that in mind, make sure that if you are going to ask a counselor about admission criteria, at least phrase it correctly. A former colleague of mine responded to any questions along the lines of “What’s your average GPA?” with, “Well, I think mine was a 3.79 when I graduated, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant right now.”

Keep these tips in mind and you do better than most at the college fair.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or topic ideas, and ladies, make sure to check in next week: Leigh Lanford from the Converse College admission office will be talking about what it means to apply to and attend an all-women’s college.