What To Ask At a College Fair

Yesterday I hung out at San Diego’s largest annual college fair.

If you want to attend one of these mega college fairs, the National Association for College Admission Counseling has posted its list of spring college fairs  on its website. Here’s where you can find fall college fairs.

Spending the morning at the San Diego college fair reminded of the days when my son was in grade school and I’d volunteer to be a chaperon for a field trip. Kids would speed through a museum without spending much time learning anything. They were just thrilled to be missing class.

That’s the vibe I got on Tuesday morning. Schools buses disgorged lots of teenagers who roamed up and down the aisles of the college fair with their friends. The college reps told me that these fairs are much more productive in the evening when kids are stuck with their parents, who are a lot more motivated.

When kids do ask questions they tend to be fairly irrelevant. Here’s the question that lots of reps told me they hear all the time:

What are your most popular majors?

Here is what the kids should be asking instead:

I’m interested in business, history, Spanish, education (fill in the academic blank). Could you describe your school’s program for students in this major?

Even if students don’t ask intelligent questions, they can still benefit by swinging by the exhibit tables of colleges that intrigue them. A student will win brownie points just by completing the card that requests further information. Why? Because many schools reward students for what they call “demonstrated interest” and that includes simply asking for further materials.

About one out of every four colleges says that demonstrated interest is of considerable importance in admission decisions.

Learn more about college strategies by reading The College Solution by Lynn O’Shaughnessy.

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