8 Things to Do to Prepare for a College Fair

Who doesn’t love a fair? I sure do, but I know I’m biased. A college fair is a useful start for considering the next step for your future, but truth be told, a college fair can be overwhelming. There are ways, however, you can prepare for these informative events. These steps will help you get the low-down on colleges that pique your interest and help you make meaningful connections with admissions counselors.

Here are eight things you can do to get the most out of your time at a college fair:

1. Do Your Research

Think about what is most important to you in a college or university beforehand and talk with your family about what qualities would make the best fit. Want to live in the city? Are you interested in an all-star soccer team? Do you have concerns about tuition costs? It may be helpful to make a list and prepare questions you want answered to save time.

2. Get Organized and Prepare Contact Information

Make sure to bring a binder or folder to keep all of your information organized. Our job as admissions counselors is to help guide you through the school selection and application process, so you won’t want to lose the contact information of a school or admissions counselor you really liked. Also, you can save yourself the time and pain of handwriting your contact information on interest cards by preparing a sticky label with your name, contact information, date of birth, and year of graduation. This way we can keep in touch and send you the correct information for application deadlines, upcoming events and important updates specific to you.

3. Keep an Open Mind

Talk to schools you do not know much about and keep an open mind. You may find some schools that you never considered as a choice. There are so many options out there!  I would never have ended up at my Alma mater if I hadn’t been open to changing my original plan.

4. Arrive Early

Come early, check out the scene, and then decide who you are going to talk to. This will give you ample time to assess the scene and get more one-on-one time with counselors, allowing you to meet more people and get more questions answered!

5. Introduce Yourself and Exchange Information

Never be afraid to walk up and introduce yourself—and using firm handshake is always a nice touch! One of the best parts of my job is meeting new people, so let us get to know you. We expect students to ask questions and will need help getting through this process, and it’s our job to help! If you find a college counselor you really like, ask for their business card and give them your information. This shows that you are personable and making an effort to find the best choice for your future college career. Plus, creating a relationship with your admissions counselor early will mean that you’re better prepared and ahead of the game.

6. Ask Questions to Get the Answers You are Looking For

Don’t let us do all the talking. Take the time to think about questions that prompt meaningful information you couldn’t get from a website or brochure. Try asking questions that do not involve a yes or no answer. Also, remember that this is your college experience, so don’t hide behind your parents.

7. Follow-up

Send thank you cards or e-mails with follow up questions. I love hearing from students I meet at college fairs! Putting in that little bit of effort makes you stand out from the crowd. Admissions counselors meet a lot of students, so it makes us more willing to advocate for students we remember well.

8. Take Time to Reflect

Dedicate time after the event to organize your thoughts and contact information. There is a lot of information exchange at college fairs, making it easy to get lost in the shuffle. You can keep track of all this information by making a spreadsheet and ranking your schools by your interest level. This will help you know where to focus your next steps.

PSU Admissions representatives visit high schools, community colleges and participate in college fairs regionally, nationally, and internationally throughout the year.

Select your region and see when a PSU representative will be near you!

Instant Viking: Host an Instant Admission Decision Event

Portland State admissions counselors will be conducting Instant Viking events at Oregon high schools this fall. These events are a great opportunity for eligible high school seniors to have their transcripts reviewed and get an instant admissions decision.

To request an Instant Viking event be held at your high school contact the appropriate admission counselor.

Requirements for All Students Participating in an Instant Viking Event:

  • Meet PSU’s Admissions Requirements. Students who do not meet PSU’s admissions requirements will be invited to separate application workshops run by PSU admissions representatives at their high school.
  • Complete the online PSU application prior to the event. When students reach the payment portion of the application they must select Fee Deferral and then submit their application.

High School Counselors will need to do the following prior to the event:

  • Sign up eligible students for the Instant Viking event.
  • Ensure all students have applied to PSU and have official transcripts that can be reviewed on the day of the Instant Viking event by PSU admissions representatives.

Learn more.


What You Should Really Be Asking at College Fairs

Every year, I go to at least 10 college fairs and I have been an admissions counselor for 4 years so you can bet that I’ve heard every question under the sun. I get common questions about course offerings, student body size and test score requirements, and the occasional unusual question like “what do they serve in the cafeteria?” College fairs are a great opportunity for you to connect with different colleges and universities to find the right fit for you and further your understanding of the admissions process. It is my job to talk to you about the opportunities Portland State University offers and guide you toward making the right choice for your future. To better prepare you for your next visit to a college fair (and your next campus visit), I’ve created a list of the top questions people ask me and what you should ask instead.

1. What students ask: “What department or program is the best at your school?”
Asking this question is like asking what your favorite Missy Elliott song is, they are all good!

What you should ask: Think about your own interests and what you hope to gain by going to college and then get more specific. Ask about class size, graduation rates, notable alumni and professors, study abroad programs, and work-study options. The best program will be the one that is matched to your interests and needs, and what you might gain from it.

2. What students ask: What is your most popular major?
Choosing a major is a very important part of the student experience, maybe even the most! Just because something is popular does not mean that you will like it.

What you should ask: Ask questions about your interests and goals so we can talk about a major that would be right for you.

3. What students ask: What are the chances that I will get in?
Admissions counselors are not evaluators, we really don’t know!

What you should ask: You can start with asking how many applicants there are and what the admission rate is. It will help to find out what makes you a competitive applicant for the school you are applying to and why.

BONUS 1: Ask about student life!
Most students I meet hone in on academics and forget to ask about another important part of choosing the right college, their social life. At PSU, we offer a diverse range of organizations to get involved in and we value what students do outside of their academic life. There is so much to do in Portland and we love talking about all of the options. The community Portland State offers outside academics is equally important to your success, and your success is our primary goal.

BONUS 2: Don’t let your parents ask all the questions.
Your parents’ opinions matter in your admission decision and even though they may be helping you financially, you are making the final decision. You are the student and the one who will be living out your college experience so you need to ask the questions. Showing your independence and making responsible choices during the admissions process might even win brownie points with your parents.

Do you have questions? Meet an admissions counselor at your school.

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