Relax, Navigating a College Fair is Easy!

You walk into a huge gymnasium full of different colleges and universities. You have no idea where to start, what questions to ask, or if you even want to attend any of these schools.

Relax and take a deep breath.

Feel better?! The people behind these tables are here to help you find the place that is the best fit for you. The key word is “you.” The representatives from colleges and universities are at the college fair to help you.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate a college fair:

Research. Depending on the size of the college fair, you will not be able to get to every table. Start building your college list by finding colleges that have everything you are looking. You may want to ask yourself some of these questions:

  • What locations will you consider?
  • What majors are you interested in studying?
  • What size college do you want to attend?
  • What other things are important to you in a college?

Most college fairs will have a list of the colleges attending that fair. Check the college fair website or with your school counselor to get this information. Keep a copy of the list and highlight the colleges you want to be sure to visit at the fair.

Have your information ready. Prepare labels with your information (name, address, phone number, email address, high school name, intended start term, etc.) to give to college representatives.

Be patient. Depending on the college fair, you may have to wait in line to talk to a college representative. This will be especially true at “big-name” colleges. Be patient and wait your turn. Talking to the representative is very important when trying to narrow down the list of colleges that you will investigate further.

Get a business card. The things you receive at a college fair will have a lot of great information you can refer back to after the fair. In addition, the admissions counselor will be a great resource long after the fair. If you ever have any questions about the institution, they will be the person you can contact to get your answers.

Make a good impression. Introduce yourself to the representative. Don’t ask general questions like, “What’s your school all about?” Go to the table with a little knowledge about the school. Be respectful to the college representative, no matter how they are affiliated with the school. The college fair representative may be an admissions counselor, an alumni volunteer, or a current student. No matter who they are, they may be taking notes on you as well.

Consider that diamond in the rough. There will be colleges at the fair you may not have considered. However, if something about their booth/table is pulling you in, go for it and ask your questions. You might be surprised and find another college or two that are worth looking into during your college search.

Do more research. Don’t let the brochures you picked up just go into the closet or a drawer and forget about them. Go through things when the information is fresh in your mind from the college fair.

I hope these few tips will help you feel more comfortable navigating college fairs.  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know below.



Assistant Director, Undergraduate Admissions
I graduated from the University of Illinois (LAS ’02) and had the honor to play football for the Orange and Blue. I received my masters degree in Public Administration from the University of Illinois Springfield.