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Ask the right questions at college fairs


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Attending a college fair can be an overwhelming experience, but with some thoughtful preparation, students can gain valuable information about prospective schools. Instead of using precious time with college reps going over statistics like student–faculty ratio and acceptable test scores, you should focus on asking questions that will deliver real, critical answers.

Scope out prospective peers
While it is easy to think of every other college-bound student as your competition, they are, in fact, your peers. They are the same age, have comparable education, and most likely similar interests, aspirations, and concerns. With so much in common, your job is to determine what qualities make some individuals stand out. Ask admissions representatives what attributes they deem to be the most influential. Aside from grades and test scores, what other qualities are they looking for? Are most applicants involved in athletics or lots of extracurricular activities? Do many prospective students volunteer in their spare time? What are the most prevalent clubs or hobbies listed on applications? The answers to these questions can help determine if you're a good match for the school and vice versa.

Determine the campus fit
There is a good chance your college search will focus on academics, but you'll also want to find a place that feels like home. The Huffington Post recommends getting to the bottom of this by making inquiries about the atmosphere and activities found on campus. What opportunities do students jump at? What is the most popular club? Do students support the school's sports teams? What are the living and dining options? Are there quiet places on campus for study or relaxing?

Think about careers
The goal of college is to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in life after college. However, because the academic programs will differ from school to school, it may be best to ask about certain careers or occupational outcomes. Does the campus representative know of former students who have succeeded in a certain field? Are internship or mentoring opportunities available? Which academic tracks would be the best path to this career? Considering the big picture could provide some clarity within the college search process.

Searching for colleges may be time consuming, but by taking advantage of the information available at college fairs, you can put yourself in a position to make the right choice.

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