A dozen college fair survival strategies

’Tis the season — for college fairs! High school juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen can benefit from a strategic approach, so here are our top tips for attending these events.

• Make a list of 10-15 schools you want to learn more about. Focus primarily on schools that are more than two hours from home. You can visit local colleges and universities in person.

• Create a set of labels. Carry the labels with you and put them on inquiry postcards at each table. Be sure your email address is appropriate. Send an email to info@WinningApplications.com and we will send you our template.

• Take a bag with you to collect materials (although most college fairs provide them) and a pad of paper and a pen or pencil with which to take notes.

• Arrive early. It is easier to make a good impression before the admissions representative has talked to 200 other students.

• Be sure to ask for the business card of the admissions representative at the table or get the name of the alumni representative you meet.

• Shake hands, smile, and make eye contact when introducing yourself. Parents:  HANG BACK! This is your son’s/daughter’s chance to make a good impression. Let them do the talking.

• Have one or two questions that you want to ask representatives at each school  — preferably information not easily accessible on the website. Do not expect to discuss your personal circumstances with the rep. Don’t be the person who holds up the line.  However, if you are the only person interested in the school and the rep is available, it is OK to have a longer conversation about their school’s program. This is not the time to share every aspect of your application.

• Make a game plan concerning the admissions officer to whom you MUST talk.

• After the fair, make a list of the schools you visited, the date and location of the college fair, and the names and contact info of the representatives you met from each school. You may want to refer back to those notes before writing “Why this college” essays and/or before interviewing later in the process.

• Follow up with the admissions officer and cite something you spoke about in your conversation with him/her. Make sure that any follow up conversations/questions, etc. are well thought through. (Don’t ask something you can easily learn on the school’s website, for example.)

• Read through the publications you pick up at the fair. For schools that really interest you, schedule a visit, complete with admissions info session and tour, and follow up with an email to the person you met, letting him/her know that you are planning this visit.

• Throw away (or give to another student) the publications from schools that no longer interest you. Reducing the clutter in your college file will make it easier to focus your search later in the process.

Visit the Winning Applications and AdmissionsCheckup.com table.

For more information or to learn more about the college admissions process, visit us online at winningapplications.com.

Upcoming college fairs in our area:

• Tuesday, October 14, 2014 — 6 p.m.

NEACAC Fair at Sacred Heart University

William H. Pitt Center, Fairfield, CT

• Monday, October 20, 2014 — 5 p.m.

Danbury College Fair

Danbury Fair Mall

• Thursday, October 30, 2014 — 9:30 a.m.

National Hispanic College Fair

Western Connecticut State University

O’Neill Center

• Wednesday, March 25, 2015 — 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 26, 2015 — 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Hartford National College Fair

Connecticut Convention Center

Debbie Schwartz and Stephanie Klein Wassink , both former admissions officers,  are college consultants at Winning Applications in Wilton.