“Top Ten” Tips for College Fairs


by Alyssa Orrantia Bieneme, Associate Director of Admissions, Southwest Region

I am a native Californian, first-generation college graduate, and former college counselor. I’ve visited many cities and college campuses, and I believe that Cornell (and its home- Ithaca, New York) have so much to LOVE! There are many amazing colleges and universities, but finding schools that are a great fit is key. It is my passion and a privilege to advise students throughout the process from college seeker to college grad, and beyond!

The fall semester brings opportunities to learn about different college options by attending college fairs (aka college days/nights/expos)! Here are 10 reminders and tips to maximize your time, learn as much as you can, and have a great experience at these events:

  1. Approach each table with an open mind. Not every school is alike and what you learn about a college/university (even those you thought you knew) may surprise you.
  2. Talk with (not at) admissions officers. Most of us are quite approachable, down-to-earth, and committed to being a resource to students.
  3. Give a short elevator pitch. This is basically a 15-30 second greeting like your name and class year; it’s important to introduce yourself quickly and get to your questions.
  4. You don’t have to shake our hand. In fact, during cold/flu season, we will very much appreciate a kind touch-free greeting and a smile!
  5. Make business cards or labels with your information. Include your name, school, class year, email, and optional information like phone number and desired majors/extra-curricular programs.
  6. Carry a bag or backpack to collect college brochures and other materials. You don’t want to be that student who leaves a trail of glossy brochures and falling people in their wake.
  7. Research basic information on schools of interest ahead of time. That way you can spend your time at the table asking more in-depth questions. If a school is new to you, get a brochure before you get in line, so you can read up on the basics before it’s your turn.
  8. Leave your information. Complete the student information request form at the table and/or online when you get home if you want to receive more information.
  9. Keep your conversation with each admission officer brief. This way, you manage your limited fair time well while being considerate of students waiting behind you. J
  10. Ask questions that give you insights you can’t learn from a brochure or web site. Learning about a school’s campus culture, neighboring town/city relations, career development, and alumni network will help you know whether it could be a good fit.

Once again, have fun! The college search does not have to be as stressful as people make it.