College Fairs

travelBefore college representatives hunker down to read thousands of applications and essays in November, they will be attending college fairs this month in an attempt to get your attention (freshman-juniors) and answer your questions (seniors). A college fair is a great educational opportunity for students and parents as well as an opportunity for students to demonstrate their interest in a college (as attendance and communication with individual colleges are often tracked). For students near Portland, Oregon, the college fair will be held on Sunday, October 27th from 1-5 pm and Monday, October 28th from 9 am-noon at the Oregon Convention Center. You can get more information (including a list of colleges attending) and register here:

The fair can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan, so keep reading to learn about tips to make the most of your college fair visit, as well as a list of additional upcoming college fairs and events.

It is a good idea to decide on some schools in advance that you want to check out and to head to those tables first. Do some basic internet research ahead of time, so that you are not asking questions that have readily available answers on the school website. If a parent is available to go with you, have them wait in a long line for you while you take the opportunity to speak with a college that has a shorter line; then join your parent back in the first line.

If a parent can’t attend, have a friend go with you and take notes for you while you are talking to colleges about your interests and asking questions. You do the same for her/him. Once you have spoken with a few colleges, it’s easy to get confused about which college had which program. These notes will help you when it comes to filling out college applications, so keep them in a place where you can find them and be sure to record the date you spoke with the rep and get his/her name.

Walk up to the college’s table/booth. Shake hands firmly with the admissions representative. Offer your name, graduation year and your school, and make sure you have them scan your barcode (Go here to register and receive a barcode.)

Potential questions to get you started:

  • What can you tell me about your _______________ department/program? Is this a direct entry program?
  • What are you looking for with ________________ applicants? (some majors prefer certain classes; i.e. physics and pre-calculus or calculus for engineering)
  • Can students apply undecided? When do students have to declare a major?
  • What are some distinctive, special or unique programs to your college?
  • What type of student does well at your school? What kind of student finds it a poor fit?
  • What programs do you offer to help freshmen adjust to college?
  • What programs do you have that serve first-generation students or students of color?
  • What kind of tutoring or academic help is available?
  • Do you have any special housing options?
  • What do students do for fun on campus? (Ask about specific clubs or activities in which you are interested).
  • Do you offer buses or transportation to a city or other off-campus programs?
  • Do you offer Greek (fraternities & sororities) life? What percentage of students participates?
  • What traditions does your school have?
  • Does your school offer merit scholarships? If so, what type of students receives these and what % of students receive merit scholarships? Is there an early scholarship deadline?
  • Does your school meet full demonstrated need? If not, what percent of need do you typically meet? What is the average debt of graduating students?
  • What companies recruit on campus for __________ majors? Where do students get hired?

handshake.jpgShare your interests, as it will allow the representative to highlight specific programs that match.

Grab his/her business card and send a thank you email when you get home. Let the rep know what you appreciated learning about the school. Make sure to check your grammar and spelling.

National College Fairs: The NACAC (National Assoc. for College Admission Counseling) College Fair travels across the country each fall. If you are outside of Oregon, check here for dates and locations.

NACAC Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs: Interested in pursuing a college degree in music, theater, art, dance, or other related disciplines? Check out NACAC’s college fair featuring universities, colleges and conservatories specializing in art programs here: The Portland, Oregon event happens early in September. Mark it on your calendar for next year.

National Portfolio Day: For students preparing a portfolio for their applications into art, design, film or architecture programs, mark your calendars for November 10th at the Pacific Northwest College of Art from 12-4 pm. Check here for dates outside of Portland, Oregon). National Portfolio Day is an event specifically for visual artists and designers. It is an opportunity for those who wish to pursue an education in the visual and related arts to meet with representatives from colleges accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.  Representatives will be available to review your artwork, discuss their programs and answer questions about professional careers in art. Check back here for the specific date, as well as tips for preparing to attend: Here is the list of the colleges attending this year’s event (scroll down a bit).

*Dates above are specific to Portland, OR, but all programs host events across the country.