Expert Advice for Successfully Navigating a College Fair


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Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Without a solid game plan, a college fair can easily devolve into a blur of smiles, handshakes and the accumulation of enough glossy pamphlets to wallpaper your bedroom 20 times over. However, with proper planning, a college fair can be an illuminating experience that will provide you with newfound insight into prospective colleges as well as flesh-and-blood contacts you simply cannot get from paging through a Princeton Review guidebook.  

Adopting the Right Mindset

We encourage students to first think about the big picture of college admissions. The college selection process is not merely about “getting in” — it is about becoming a discerning and thoughtful consumer ultimately capable of selecting an undergraduate institution that aligns with your long-term academic, career and financial goals. Can you afford the full tuition price of your potential destinations or will you rely on scholarships, merit aid or loans? Does the school you are considering fit in with your post-undergraduate plans?

Tools of the Trade

On an extremely practical level, make sure you bring a backpack to store materials, a notebook containing potential questions for reps and a pencil or pen (although free pens with school insignias will be available by the ton). Be prepared for the fact that all schools with whom you speak will request that you complete an information card. You’ll give details such as your name, address, contact info, intended major and extracurricular interests. Make sure that if you include an email address that it is appropriate and professional.

Dress and Hygiene

Inevitably, you will see some of your peers dressed to the nines in clothes so stiff and unfamiliar they are moving from booth to booth with a Herman Munster-like gait. This simply isn’t necessary. There is absolutely no need to show up to a college fair in a three-piece suit. Just don’t show up in a humorous, alcohol-themed T-shirt and dirty sweatpants. Dress for a college fair as you would for a dinner with your grandmother — a “business casual” look will more than suffice.

Study Up for a Productive Q&A

When you have the ear of an admissions representative at a prospective college, take advantage of the opportunity by asking penetrating questions. Find out whether a typical freshman class at the school is a classroom of 20 students intimately engaged in discourse with the professor or involves 300 anonymous faces in a lecture hall. Ask about graduation rates, career services, internships, study abroad opportunities and employment statistics in your field of interest.

It can also be beneficial to ask specific questions about life on campus. What are the options for freshman housing? How does the college select roommates? What is the neighborhood surrounding the campus like? This information can be challenging to find online or in guidebooks but can be easily answered by a college representative.

Of course, any conversation is a two-way street so it’s wise to come prepared to talk about yourself as well. Remember, even if you are not engaging in a formal interview, it’s still a face-to-face opportunity to make a strong first impression.

Your Endgame

Since admissions officers typically attend college fairs within their assigned regions, there is a very strong chance the representative you meet will be one of the people reading your application down the road. Aim to make at least one or two “human connections” at the fair and stay in contact with this individual in the coming months.

Send your new contacts an email thanking them for their time. Ask follow-up questions as they arrive. Hopefully, when all is said and done, a college fair will have provided you with several contacts and a plethora of useful information that will help you, the college consumer, better determine which schools should jump to the top of your list and which can be eliminated.

Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. He is also a co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at collegetransitions.com.

 

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About this Blog

College Transitions

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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September 2019

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
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Celebrate Latino culture in Durham.

Cost: Free

Where:
Compare Foods Parking Lot
2000 Avondale Dr.
Durham, NC
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Enjoy sweets from over 20 vendors for humans and pets.

Cost: Free

Where:
City Market
214 E. Martin Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Jay's Italian Ice
Telephone: 919-780-4169
Contact Name: Jay Jones
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Discover Historic Yates Mill—a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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See Peppa Pig and her friends embark on a new adventure in this live stage show. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $29.50 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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See Peppa Pig and her friends embark on a new adventure in this live stage show. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $29.50 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Practice your ABCs and develop your fine motor skills through games and hands-on activities. Play a letter game and go on a scavenger hunt!  For ages 18 months–3 years (with an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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These programs are open to students 6–12 years old. Parent/guardians are welcome to stay for the program or drop-off. Preregistration is required. Discover the amazing world of mushrooms and...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Bring your own poles or borrow one of ours through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are provided. All...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Robert Gibbs discusses his latest book, "Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation." Ages 8-12. Purchase the book from Quail Ridge to reserve two seats for the event and a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209 Lassister Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Join us to make moveable miniature skating figures that light up!  Space is limited. To register, call 919-245-2532. Grades 3-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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We are Voted BEST consignment sale in the Triangle and TOP 10 in the NATION!! Our sale features Children's Clothing including a wonderful boutique section, costume section, and coats section,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Towne Centre
1105 Walnut St
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
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Enjoy a free sunset movie by the picturesque Lake Raleigh. Take a picnic blanket, lawn chairs and a non-perishable food donations (human and pet) on Fridays in September to NC State's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Raleigh Meadows
Campus Shore Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: VisitCentennial
Telephone: 704-651-3179
Contact Name: Jude DesNoyer
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Each year more than 30,000 visitors come to BugFest to experience over 100 exhibits, crafts, games and activities. This year's theme is beetles. Interact with entomologists and other scientists...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919.707.9800
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Each year more than 30,000 visitors come to BugFest to experience over 100 exhibits, crafts, games and activities. This year's theme is beetles. Interact with entomologists and other...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919.707.9800
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Take part in a pop-up Stroller Barre class followed by a nature scavenger hunt for kids and socializing for moms. Suitable for pregnant mamas. Take a sturdy stroller (no jogger needed!),...

Cost: $5

Where:
Piney Wood Park
400 E. Woodcroft Pkwy
Durham, NC  27713
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM West Raleigh Durham
Telephone: 984-329-5970
Contact Name: Jenine N Pearson
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Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
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Please join us for our 27th annual Triangle Festival of Hope & Walk to De-feet Dementia at Knightdale Station Park. The 1-mile walk through the park, or 1/4 mile shorter version, will begin...

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N First Ave
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: Free

Where:
Main Street Creedmoor
301 N. Main St.
Creedmoor, NC  27522
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Sponsor: City of Creedmoor
Telephone: 919-764-1013
Contact Name: Angie Perry
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We are Voted BEST consignment sale in the Triangle and TOP 10 in the NATION!! Our sale features Children's Clothing including a wonderful boutique section, costume section, and coats section,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Towne Centre
1105 Walnut St
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
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Visual artists from near and far will showcase their work, and 75 performing arts groups provide continuous music, dance and entertainment throughout the festival including extended Saturday...

Cost: $5 suggested donation; free for children under 12

Where:
Durham Arts Council
120 Morris Street
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Enjoy local bands, arts and crafts vendors, car show, kids' area, fun contests and games, plus a barbecue cook-off contest featuring veteran cooking teams.

Cost: Free

Where:
River Park
114 E. Margaret Ln.
Hillsborouh, NC  27278
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This family-oriented event includes corn milling demonstrations and costumed tours of Yates Mill, and other event activities including a fun children’s scavenger hunt activity, live music and...

Cost: Free, though there is a $3-5 fee for mill tours

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Take the family for Caribbean food, live music, a Kids Zone, bounce house, face painter and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
West Point on the Eno
5101 N. Roxboro St.
Durham, NC  27704
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Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Celebrate diversity in Wake Forest with live performances, traditional cuisine and family entertainment. 

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Live bands showcase this event that also features a kids zone, vendor village and food trucks.

Cost: $11.25 – $20

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre's Rose Garden and Stephenson Amphitheatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

More information

Live bands showcase this event that also features a kids zone, vendor village and food trucks.

Cost: $15 advance tickets, $20 at the door. Free for ages 5 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre's Rose Garden and Stephenson Amphitheatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

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The Teen Advisory Board invites you to meet up with other gamers to mingle, snack, and test your skills for prizes! Guests are welcome to bring their own controllers/fightsticks. Register by...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
Website »

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The Clayton Center presents country crooner Billy "Crash" Craddock in concert. Sing along with Crash as he belts out his biggest hits, including Knock Three Times, Rub It In, Ruby Baby, Broken...

Cost: $25 plus taxes & fees

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second Street
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Sponsor: The Clayton Center
Telephone: 919-553-1737
Website »

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