Published: Oct. 12, 2018

College fair table

October is now upon us, and we all know what that means! The leaves are changing colors, the pumpkin spice lattes are making an appearance, and you’re beginning your annual Netflix binge of all the spooky Halloween movies you can possibly find. As you throw on your flannel and lace up your boots this autumn, you may stumble across a poster advertising a College Fair taking place in your community or at your school. In reflecting back on my own high school experience, I remember looking to College Fairs with equal parts anticipation and dread. “What should I ask? Should I dress professionally for the occasion? Does this person read my application? Do they want to hear about the time I met Bill Nye the Science Guy? (Trust me, he was COOL back then!) Regardless of whether you’ve never been to a College Fair before or attended dozens, it’s always a good idea to gain some insight on how to get the most out of your own College Fair experience (particularly when that advice comes from the person on the other side of the table!).

The easy default questions to fall back on cover the broader pieces associated with attending college, thing such as: “Do you have this major?”, “What is your tuition?”, or “Do you have this sport?” While these are certainly important things to know about a college or university, most of these questions can be answered quickly and on your own with one of the brochures laid out or by visiting the school’s website. Instead, think of a College Fair like College “Speed Dating.” You have dozens (or even hundreds!) of schools to learn about, and you get to personally interact with someone from each institution to decide how this school may fit into your college career. Use this time to explore your options and search for those intangible qualities that come naturally when conversing with someone. To that end, I’m here today to help shed some light on how to maximize your own College Fair experience this Fall with my ‘Top-Five questions to ask at a College Fair!’

  1. Start with an introduction. Okay, okay… this is only the first “question” and I’m already bending the rules a bit. I know that this is technically not a question, but the best way to help the admissions counselor on the other side of the table to provide you with the most relevant information is to start things off by sharing a few key details about yourself. When admissions counselors are meeting with hundreds of prospective students, getting some insight into who you are can really help us to personalize our interaction according to your interests and needs.  If there is enough time, start with a “Hello, my name is ___, I am a ____ in high school (Junior, etc.). I am interested in studying something like_____. I’m also involved in_____ (extracurricular activities).” This brief, but concise start can help a school representative sort through dozens of majors, programs and options to give you the most applicable information, even in just 2--3 minutes of chatting.

  2. “What’s the community atmosphere like on campus and in the surrounding area?” While academics are certainly the top piece to consider when deciding where to embark on your college journey, consideration of the school’s community should also play a big role in this process. College isn’t just a big financial investment-- it is a big time investment as well! If you’re going to be spending four years in a new place, you need to be certain that it is somewhere you can be happy, healthy, and successful! Ask yourself, where do you envision yourself as a thriving college student? In the hustle and bustle of a major metropolis, with a downtown internship and endless activities? At the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, joining your classmates for an evening hike or outdoor study session? Perhaps outside of a small town, where everyone knows your name and wears the same color on game day? Everyone’s ideal college environment will be a bit different, so asking this question can help you get a better understanding of the type of environment that is offered at a particular school. And more importantly, it will help you in determining whether or not you can envision yourself there!

  3. “What’s distinctive about your institution?” Every school is going to be good at something, and every representative can likely tell you what this is! This is more than just an opportunity for a counselor to brag about his or her school; it’s also a way to see how a university channels its resources. In what areas has it created a positive impact? In what programs has it seen wide success? What are the priorities of the institution, and do those priorities align with your values? An awareness of how each school sets itself apart is a way for you to learn which ones stand out to you.

  4. “What types of students are you looking for?” This simple question can help you learn a lot about the makeup and focus of a given institution. Does the admissions counselor immediately talk about the grades/test-scores required to get in? Or do they discuss volunteerism, community engagement, and other qualities aside from just academic markers? As students in the midst of your college search process, you’re working hard to find the best fit university for you. Similarly, each school is also trying to find the best fit students for their own respective communities. This question can tell you a lot about the type of campus environment a given school is trying to create, because an institution is only as good as the students that comprise it!

  5. “I’m interested in your school! What’s my next step?” Most people that represent schools at a College Fair work either directly in, or in collaboration with, that school’s Admissions Office. So if you determine that you are interested in moving forward with this school, be proactive! Find out if you need to fill out a contact form, schedule an interview, or visit campus. These individuals should know what comes next, and may even be involved in your application consideration, so leverage this interaction and start a relationship! Grab his or her contact information, and make sure you know how to follow up if you have questions later in the process.

Interested in trying out these questions with a CU Boulder representative? You’re in luck! Our staff travels the world to meet with students and answer questions like these and more!


“Written by CU Boulder Office of Admissions”