How to make the most of the College Fair

    Every year, hundreds of high school students visit the annual Palo Alto Unified School District College Fair hosted at one of our two high schools. The college fair, hosted this year from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 at Palo Alto High School, is a popular way to hear more about colleges, demonstrate interest and learn about the upcoming admissions process. However, students frequently misuse the opportunity and find themselves  in no better position when they apply. The Paly Voice presents a synthesized 4-step guide to gathering critical information and forming relationships with admissions officers to make the most out of your college fair experience. 

    Visiting the College and Career Center in the administration building is a great way to keep updated on applications and attend college representative visits. This poster outside the center displays flyers from every college that visits Paly. Photo by Maya McNealis.

    Visiting the College and Career Center in the administration building is a great way to keep updated on applications and attend college representative visits. This poster outside the center displays flyers from colleges that visit Paly. Photo by Maya McNealis.

    1. Ask about more than just statistics and averages.

    The college fair is a great way to learn about more than a school’s numbers. You can look up scores and statistical information online in your free time. In fact, if you ask admissions counselors and alumni for basic data, you may come across as unprepared instead of excited about the university.

    Academic life

    It’s important to ask about the academic life at the school. Make sure to bring up:

    – Work/life balance

    – Studying outside your major

    – Unique programs offered

    Social life

    Although academics are important, don’t forget to ask about different ways you can get socially involved and connect with students at the school, as this will help you determine whether you like the school’s culture. Ask about:

    – Clubs

    – Greek life

    – Community service and volunteer hours

    – Events on campus

    – How dorms are organized: by major, by interest, or random?

    – Fun traditions

    Work/Career opportunities

    Asking about work and career opportunities demonstrates an impressive level of interest and maturity. Make sure you talk a little about:

    – Undergraduate research

    – Studying abroad

    – Internships

    – Alumni networks

    2. Engage in in-depth conversations instead of focusing on visiting every booth.

    Make sure to converse thoughtfully with as many representatives as you can. Wait at the booth rather than just skimming aisles and picking up packets. Representatives value the time you take to talk to them and are more likely to remember you when reading applications.

    3. If a representative is an alumnus, ask why they chose the school. 

    Their answer will help you write an authentic and honest supplement about why you want to apply to their university, which provides a personalized story and can help you decide whether to apply.

    4. Follow up with emails to show interest.

    A common misconception is that you’ll sound needy or annoying, but a genuine thank you shows representatives that you are truly interested in their school and helps them see you as a potential student. Asking additional questions also ensures they won’t forget you.

    Paly’s College and Career Center has also provided a list of things to do when attending a college fair. For more information, click here. For a list of colleges attending the fair, click here.

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