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Ask your guidance counselor when the next local fair is coming up. You can also go to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) website (www.nacacnet.org) to find out when the next national fair in your area will be held. These events can be a bit overwhelming— especially the biggies run by the NACAC—but with a little planning, you’ll get all the info you need.

Before You Go:

  • Look over the list of participants.
  • Mark the colleges that you’d like to learn about.
  • Write down a few questions for the college representatives.
  • Print up some self-adhesive labels with your name, address, phone number, email, address, high school, graduation year, intended major (it’s OK to put undecided), and any extracurricular activities you’re interested in pursuing. These labels are particularly handy because, instead of filling out a ton of college information cards by hand, you can just stick your labels on the cards and spend more time learning about colleges.
  • Stick your lists, labels, a pen, and a pad into a bag (a large one for all of the info you’ll be bringing home) to take to the fair.

While you are there:

  • Look for a map of where each college is located, and plan out a direct route so you’ll have time to visit all the colleges on your list—grab all the brochures and catalogs you can carry.
  • Write down a few thoughts about each college and the answers to your questions as soon as you leave a booth. Then move on to the next table on your route.
  • Browse the colleges that didn’t make it onto your list. Don’t just stick to the booths that seem popular. You never know—a college you’ve never heard of might just be everything you’re looking for.
  • Start at the far end of the room; everyone begins talking to colleges near the entrance of the fair, so beat the crowds by working the room in reverse!
  • Talk to admissions representatives. Indiate your interest in the college, and ask intelligent questions. When you are finished, ask the rep for a business card—he or she could be a valuable contact in the future.
  • If available, check out an info session on financial aid or applying to colleges.

When You Get Home:

  • Reread your notes and start plowing through all those brochures you collected.
  • Make a list of the colleges that you’re still interested in.
  • Start scheduling some visits. (If you or your parents are members of AAA, they can help you design your college tours.)
  • Email or write admissions officers that you met at the fair to thank them for sharing information with you and express your continued interest in their college.

* Content excerpted from Your College Admissions Game Plan, available where books are sold.