Window Shopping at College Fairs

Walking down an aisle, some cool swag catches your eye and you smile at the representative; sound like your last trip to the mall? Nope, you’re at a college fair! At Admit U, we like to think of a college fair as a mall filled with schools, in which students are the window-shopping customers.  
College fairs grant students and parents unique opportunities to browse many universities at once, meet directly with the schools’ representatives, and gather information without making a commitment to applying. However, with the number of colleges at the fair rivaling the number of stores in the Mall of America, how do students know where to begin?
First, understand a primary goal: to collect information. Be prepared with some questions that will help you learn more about the school. You may want to start with your academic or extracurricular interests and ask, for instance, if a college has an active theater department? A TV studio? Student government? Greek life?
Some other general questions that may help you gather information might include:
  • What makes your college unique?
  • What are the most popular majors?
  • How does your school help undecided students choose majors?
  • What programs are you trying to build?
  • What do students do for fun?
  • What’s something that I shouldn’t miss if I visit the school or when I’m a student?
  • How’s the food on campus?
  • How are the dorms?
  • What is there to do in town?  How do I get there?
  • How are scholarships determined? By grades or extracurricular activities? Test scores?
As you browse the tables and ask questions, remember to put your best self forward. Students should be sure to shake hands, make good eye contact with the college representatives, and be the one to do most of the talking (not mom or dad). These communication skills are always important! Also, take notes about what you learn. Remembering everything from a college fair is difficult, so jot down interesting details, take pictures with your cell phone, use the “Notes” section to keep track of your thoughts – these will be useful in strengthening your application if you end up applying to the college/university.
Colleges are also looking to collect information about YOU. They will ask you to fill out contact cards and sign up for their mailing lists. We highly recommend you create pre-printed labels with your contact information on them to help speed up the process and avoid jockeying for elbow room at the tables as you fill out cards by hand. Some information you should consider putting on your labels includes:

  • First name, Last name:
  • Address:
  • Email Address:
  • Phone Number:
  • Year of Graduation:
  • High School:
  • Majors of interest:
Just as a new store may catch your eye at the mall, it is quite possible that a college you have never heard of will do the same at a college fair. Please keep an open mind! You never know what you will discover by expanding beyond the “popular” schools.
For many students, attending a college fair is one of the early steps in the exciting college admissions process. Admit U encourages you to have fun with it!  Feel free to contact one of our college counseling professionals for additional guidance. 


This column offers college preparation information and advice for freshman just beginning to think about college, seniors in the thick of completing applications and essays, and students who are somewhere in between.

Admit U Consulting, LLC, established in 2003, is a college planning firm that provides individualized and comprehensive services designed to help families navigate the college admissions process. As professionals in the field, Admit U counselors provide the expertise, a hands-on and individualized approach, and the knowledge of current admissions trends necessary to help students and families make informed decisions. All Admit U counselors are currently working in educational settings and also hold certificates in College Counseling. 

​Admit U focuses on helping students find the "best fit" school, while minimizing the anxiety associated with the process and maximizing the student's potential for admission.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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