At Common App we know the power of exploring colleges. College fairs are a great way for counselors, students, and families to connect with admissions representatives from colleges and universities around the world. College fairs are in full swing this fall, both in-person and online. 

Like so many pieces of the college search experience, college fairs are what students make of them. Here are some tips for encouraging your students to participate and get the most out of these opportunities.

1. Plan: Map out opportunities for your students and families

College fairs can take place at your own school, through your district, or even through a national organization like the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). College fairs can even come to students in their own home through virtual opportunities. Stay in the loop about opportunities in your area to advertise to your students and families.

Insider tip: Check out NACAC’s college fair schedule to see virtual college fair options or if there is an in-person fair taking place near you.

2. Promote: Let students know the benefits of attending a college fair

College fairs provide an opportunity for students to engage with college admission representatives from hundreds of colleges and universities from around the country and globe.

Here’s what makes college fairs great:

  • Accessibility. College fairs bring the colleges directly to students and families -- and these days, directly into their homes
  • Exposure. Students will discover colleges they’ve never heard of before
  • Connections. Students can speak directly with admissions representatives to have their questions answered

Insider tip: Check out NACAC’s promotional kit for counselors, with downloadable graphics and sample text you can use to get the word out.

3. Prepare: Provide students with college fair guidance

Think about past experiences of attending college fairs, as well as recent events you or your students have attended either in-person or virtually. What tips do you have for how students can be active learners at a college fair?

Here’s how to help your students get ready:

  • Before: Prior to the fair, encourage students to think about what they are looking for in a college. Big or small? Public or private? Special programs or majors? Proximity to home? The more they know about themselves and the type of college environment they are looking for, the easier it will be for them to target the schools they want to visit during the fair. Students should register for college fairs in advance, review the list of colleges that will be attending, and make a list of questions they want to ask each college.

Insider tip: Students can use filters to find colleges that meet their search criteria on Common App’s Explore Colleges page.

  • During: Encourage students to take notes during their conversations with each college they visit with so they can refer to those notes later. Remind students that quality is more important than quantity -- they will gain more from a few meaningful conversations than they will from trying to pop in and out of multiple college sessions. Some colleges look at demonstrated interest in their application review. Nudge students to ask college representatives if filling out a prospect card will have an impact on their application.
  • After: Remind students that college fairs are just one piece of their college exploration. Students can continue learning about colleges by doing in-person or virtual campus visits and reviewing a college’s website. They can also find ways to connect with current faculty and students by following the college on social media. When they have questions, students can always reach out to the admissions representative they met during the college fair.

Insider tip: Students can access virtual campus tours and image galleries on Common App’s Explore Colleges page.

College fairs are a great place for your students to connect with college representatives and learn about colleges that might be a good fit. Preparing your students to be curious and intentional will help them make the most of their time at a college fair. Whether a college fair is in person or virtual, the hope is for your students to walk away with new information to guide their college search. That is the sign of a successful college fair.