It has been many years since I experienced the unfettered joy of a College Fair from a student’s perspective; however, in my capacity as a teacher and a college consultant, I have had the unique opportunity in recent years to observe this phenomena as an interested outside observer.  For many parents, the mass marketing mania that typifies many College Fairs can prove to be overwhelming, to say the least.  While some parents overcompensate, thrusting themselves into the conversation too often, leaving their children to assume the role of the casual observer, others see themselves as glorified taxis drivers, who have fulfilled their role just by getting their child to the right location on time. 

Ideally, you, as a parent, should aim for somewhere in between these extremes.  It is up to you to provide a calming and practical influence on your child to prevent the College Fair from turning in to a circus.  Helping your kids prepare for the big day, and providing restrained support during the event, can ensure that both you and your child get the most out of the experience.   Along with this basic advice, there are some specific things you can do to improve your chances of having a successful day at the fair:

Make sure you child does his homework- It is helpful to do a little research before the College Fair to determine which schools are going to be present.  Have your child compile a list of the schools he is most interested in, and encourage him to spend a little time researching those schools.  The more information you can discover ahead of time, the better prepared he will be to ask focused and intelligent questions of the school representatives.  While you may have some strong opinions about which schools you think are right for your child, be sure to let him come up with his list on his own.  One time saving thing you can also do to is to have your child print up labels containing important contact information (name, mailing address, email address, high school name, year of graduation, and program/major -if known).  All of the schools will require this information, so you can save yourself a lot of time by bringing these pre-prepared labels. 

Stick to the script- work with your child to come with a list of questions to ask college recruiters.  Here are some potential questions to get you started:

·         How would you best describe the typical freshman at your school?

·         What activities does the college offer on campus?

·         How would you describe your campus? Is it a college town?

·         What is the expected starting salary for a student graduating from XYZ major?

·         What is the graduation rate at your school?

·         Is there a particular program that attracts students to your school?

·         How much debt on average does a graduate of your school have?

Let your child drive the discussion- It is important for your child be allowed to take ownership of the admissions process.  While your son or daughter may initially need some help breaking the ice with the recruiters, they will eventually get the hang of it.  Give them the space they need to find things out for themselves.  Not only will this help to make them more comfortable with the process, it will also instill a sense of self-confidence, which will be very important when it comes time to participate in interviews. 

The most important thing to remember is that this is already an overwhelming process for your child, so be careful not to add to the pressure by having unrealistic expectations.  There will be times that you need to motivate your child or push him in the right direction, but be careful not to push too hard or you will sour your child on the entire process.  In the end, it still needs to be fun!