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  • Michelle Silbernagel

How to Make the Most of Virtual College Fairs

Updated: Feb 4


College fairs have always been a great opportunity for students and families to learn about hundreds of colleges and universities all in one day.


Pre-COVID, students assembled in large convention centers and moved from booth to booth, picking up college guidebooks and asking questions of the admissions representatives. Students could arrive and meander, or come with a plan and a list of colleges they specifically wanted to learn more about.


This year, the fairs are all virtual, which means students can do their meandering prior to the official event.


Freshmen and sophomores, virtual college fairs are a low barrier way to learn more about different types of colleges, from small to large, public to private, liberal arts to institutes of technology. Simply attend with an open mind, listen, take notes, and know that nothing more is expected of you.


Juniors, you can dig into your college exploration process from the comfort of your home. Take advantage of the information sessions with student presenters who speak to what academic and social life are like on campus. Ask the admissions representatives specific questions about everything from fall opening plans to test-optional status. For bonus points and to demonstrate interest, note the admission’s representative’s name and email address, and follow up with a thank-you note.



For a list of the virtual college fair opportunities in 2021, click here.


Register & Research

The first step is to register for the fair.

Pro-Tip

Students should register for the event using an email address they created specifically for the college admissions process. Students will receive *a lot* of college emails as they prepare for college and they'll want to avoid having their high school student email inbox flooded with these communications.

The event platform will provide a schedule of events, with dates and times for specific college presentations and Q&A interaction opportunities. For most virtual fairs, like the NACAC fairs, students create their virtual fair account and then register for each individual session they plan to attend in advance.


If students provide their cell phone number during the registration process, they can receive text notifications of when an event they signed up for is about to start.


Once students have selected which colleges they will "visit," they should do a little research about the college before attending the event session to see if it meets their general priorities. College admissions representatives love to speak with students who show genuine interest in their institution and have enough knowledge about it to ask intelligent questions. For example, asking about the Nursing Program at Chapman University may not indicate a thoughtful interest since Chapman doesn't offer a Nursing degree. Of course, it's fine to use the virtual fair as a chance to explore and dip your toe into the college search process. But accessing the pre-loaded resources on the fair's dashboard can be a great way to learn more.


Learn

In addition to college-specific information, the fairs also include thematic sessions. Students and families can learn about the financial aid process, the role of standardized tests, what makes a great college essay, or even what to consider when researching specific majors.


The virtual fairs are interactive, as well. Students and families are encouraged to use the chat and Q&A features, to unmute themselves, turn on their camera, and engage with the admissions representatives. In the college-specific sessions, students virtually visit a college "table," by popping into its virtual room. The "room/booth" sessions may vary in format, with some allowing students to join in at any time during the session, while others may use a waiting room feature, so students and admissions reps can speak one-on-one.


Starter Questions

It can be daunting to join a room and start a conversation with a stranger. Start with these questions and soon you'll find one question will flow from the next. Let your interests guide you.


Questions about Testing

What is your testing policy for the class of 2022?

Do you encourage obtaining tests for certain majors?

If you were test-optional in the past, what percentage of admitted students still submitted tests?


Questions for colleges that will require air travel

How far from the airport is campus?

How can students get transportation to campus from the airport?

How far is campus to the nearest city or town?

Do students need a car to get around?


Questions that get beyond faculty/student ratio

How many students are in the typical freshman class?

How many students are in a typical upper-classman class?

Do students have trouble getting the classes they need for their majors during registration?

Can you describe the access students have to teachers?

How often do students talk with faculty members or advisors about their career plans?

How often do students talk with faculty members outside class about what they are learning?

How many students work on research projects with faculty?


Questions about majors/programs

Do students apply to a specific school, department/program, or major during the application process?

And if so, can students change programs or majors if they change their mind once on campus?

How hard is it to switch majors, in general?

How much time do students spend studying each week?


Questions to learn about the campus culture?

What is the campus culture like?

What do students do on weekends?

Where are students from?

What are some of the most popular clubs?

Is there Greek life? If so, how do students feel about it?

How many of your students come from out-of-state?

How would you describe the campus diversity?

What kind of students seem to thrive or are the happiest?

What do students like the most about the college?

What do you think students think should be improved?


Questions about COVID-19 safety precautions*

Are you providing campus tours and if so, what are the procedures?

What is your vaccination policy/plan?

Do you anticipate your on-campus learning in the fall?

What is the education learning model for your campus this spring?

What regulations and requirements are being enforced to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on campus?

What are the campus procedures for students who believe they may be sick or have symptoms of the coronavirus?

How do students get tested on campus?

Does the campus implement social distancing practices in classrooms and other common areas of campus?

How does the campus track the number of positive cases and tracing?

How are students notified about new Coronavirus cases and the spread?

How does the college handle remote meetings, classes, office hours, and tutoring?

What virtual resources are available?

What activities are available that meet social distancing guidelines? (Intramural sports, gyms, etc.)


*Some questions came from Guide to College Safety During the Pandemic published online at Safety.com


For a list of the virtual college fair opportunities in 2021, click here.


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