College fairs usually pop up on your calendar in the fall, and there’s many reasons to attend.

They can help you refine your college list, and more importantly, they can give you an opportunity to meet college admissions reps. In fact, these networking opportunities may be one of the most valuable aspects of a college fair.

A college fair “is one of the few opportunities for a student to make a face-to-face impression with a representative from the college. The conversation you have should help you gain valuable insight into the school,” says Lindsey Conger, a college counselor at Moon Prep.

College fairs can also be hectic. There can be dozens of colleges in attendance, and some booths may be swamped by students. Here are a few expert suggestions on how to network and navigate a college fair.

1. Find Fairs in Your Area

Your high school isn’t the only option for attending a college fair. Fairs are often held in community centers, or nearby high schools may have fairs that are open to the public. There are also virtual college fairs. Even if you already have your college list set, it’s helpful to head to a college fair if your potential schools are in attendance. This gives you a chance for admissions officers to put a face to your name and answer any specific questions you may have.

2. Dress the Part

While no one expects formal attire, overly casual clothing—like sweatpants and flip-flops—could be construed as a lack of interest. “Students should dress business casual. For example, dark jeans and a dress shirt is a great way to show admissions officers you take your education seriously without wearing a suit,” says Daniel Santos, CEO of Prepory.

“Moreover, students should not wear apparel with any college or university logos. There are plenty of schools at college fairs, and it’s possible you may be interested in a school other than the one you’re representing,” says Conger. Attending a virtual fair is a little more relaxed, but it’s still important to consider your appearance.

3. Take Initiative

Remember that admissions representatives are there to meet and greet potential students, not just to hand out materials and answer general questions. “College reps would like to see initiative, good interpersonal skills, general intellectualism, and a genuine, deep interest in their school,” says Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education.

You want to give the people you meet a sense of who you are and where your interests lie. If the conversation allows, feel free to open up a bit about hobbies and clubs you enjoy. The goal is to make a genuine connection and let the admissions officer get to know you.

4. Ask Well-Researched Questions

The questions you bring to the table should be the kind that invite conversation. By asking about topics that can be accessed online (how many students attend the school, does the school have an engineering major) you’ll likely receive a quick answer and reach a dead end. If you want the school representatives to take a deeper interest in you, you’ll need to demonstrate your interest in their school through more searching, thoughtful questions.

“Before students attend a college fair, they should conduct research on the participating schools [they’re considering] to develop a list of school-specific questions,” says Santos. “Ask detailed questions that are specific to the major you’re interested in or the campus culture.”

5. Exchange Contact Information

Before you walk away, thank everyone you’ve spoken with for their time. Don’t forget to collect email addresses or business cards. Make sure your email handle is professional (like your school address or a personal address that includes your name) and make sure you check this inbox regularly. Even if you’ve already requested information for the school online, you still want to leave your info on the school rep’s sign-in sheet. That way, the admissions officer has a record of your visit, which might spark a positive memory of chatting with you.

6. Follow Up

Be proactive and follow up within a day or two of the fair. Admissions staff attend many events, and you don’t want them to forget you. A friendly email that thanks them for their time, references the fair and briefly reiterates why you’re interested in the school is appropriate and an effective way to communicate with admissions officers and demonstrate interest in a college.

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