What do I ask at the college fair?
The Spring College Fair is scheduled for Friday, April 26, at Maui High from 5 to 7 p.m. This is a great opportunity for local students to meet the admissions representatives from dozens of colleges from all around the country. Juniors, and even sophomores, should make an effort to attend and learn about all the different programs that these schools have to offer you.
The other great thing is that in many cases, the representatives that you talk to are the ones who will actually be reading your applications should you decide to apply, so it is advantageous for you to be able to put a face to the name they will see on paper, and show that extra bit of “demonstrated interest” that will add to your overall portfolio.
Going to the college fair all too frequently ends up being one of a few things: a new venue for hanging out with your friends, a place where parents are pushing through to talk to the reps, or a mad dash to collect pens and memorabilia from all the different tables. Obviously, none of those things are going to help in your own personal search for the right college. But many of you don’t know what to ask or how to start a conversation with these folks, so here are few suggestions:
First, and foremost, there is tons of information on all college websites; do your homework and don’t waste your chance on asking something you should know already if you are seriously considering a school. Second, make sure that YOU are asking the questions, not your parents. Reps want to meet you, not them, and in fact will not look favorably upon an overzealous parent highjacking student time with them.
What are you looking for in applicants? Ask about things beyond GPAs and test scores. How can you stand out? How valuable are extracurriculars, summer activities and volunteering? Different schools look for different things, and they’re all looking for something different from students. Admissions officers enjoy talking about what they like to see in applications, and they enjoy talking to you, so try to overcome shyness and get in that crowd to ask!
Do admissions requirements differ for different majors? Different majors or concentrations may have different admissions requirements, so ask if there are additional application requirements or prerequisites you may need to take before applying to a specific program. Do you need to write additional essays? Submit a portfolio? Audition? Sometimes GPA expectations are higher for certain majors like nursing or engineering. Ask about the majors that interest you to get more information on what it takes to gain admission to those programs. If you don’t know what your major will be, ask how applying as “undeclared” will affect your application, and how difficult it is to change majors within the different schools should you change course, which many do, after entrance.
What support services does the school offer students? What support does the school offer to first-year students transitioning into college life? Mental health services? What about tutoring and academic support services? These types of resources can be very critical to students, so don’t hesitate to ask. Also, ask what support they have for helping students find summer internship or jobs, and if there are programs beyond an available website.
How will the school change over the next few years? Does the school plan on expanding enrollment? Are there new dorms, buildings or libraries being built on campus? How about recreation facilities? And if you are a student-athlete, are the playing facilities updated or will that be changing while you are attending? Will the school have major construction going on while you are there? Essentially, will the school be changing dramatically while you are there? If the school is expanding class sizes, will that lead to more large, lecture hall classes when you were expecting smaller classroom sizes? Take note of the things that will change (or won’t!) during your time there.
Finally, make sure to get the contact information of representatives of schools which really interest you, and e-mail them a quick thank you when you get home. Many reps will keep track of contacts for demonstrated interest. Do your homework, come prepared and get in there and ask questions.
Maryanne Hogan, “The College Auntie,” is an independent college counselor working with students on Maui. For more information about her and her services, visit her website: Thecollegeauntie.com.