College Fairs for Aspiring Ivy League Students

Should you bother to attend college fairs if you plan to attend an Ivy League or similarly elite top-tier college or university? The answer is yes, but be selective. You should attend fairs and other events conducted by organizations that include the top-tier schools that interest you. At these events, you’ll be able to evaluate elite institutions and establish a communication channel with those that appeal to you.

It’s advisable to attend college fairs as a high school underclassman if you can. This will help you to clarify your ideas about the characteristics of the schools that you like best. You’ll gain useful input for the time when you need to create the list of colleges that you’ll be targeting for application during senior year.

Before we review the organizations that sponsor fairs involving top-tier schools, let’s consider the benefits to be derived by attending college fairs in general.

  • College fairs are time-efficient because they enable you to meet representatives from many institutions in one place and at the same time. Colleges have marketing budgets for the purpose of competing against one another for the best students. As a result, it’s fair for you to judge an institution’s interest in students like you by the quality of their exhibit, presentations, and representatives. This shouldn’t be your most important criterion, but the fact that first impressions count cuts both ways.
  • A great deal of information is available online about every college. The value of attending a college fair is to be able to interact with each school’s representatives. There’s no need to press for facts at a fair such as, “What majors do you offer?” If the representatives can answer your questions about specific academic programs of interest to you, that should tell you something.
  • IvySelect recommends that the target list of institutions to which you will apply as a senior should include 12 or 13 schools. By attending fairs, you’ll be able to narrow the list of schools that you wish to visit in person. It’s too time-consuming to visit schools that aren’t likely to make your best-fit list.
  • The responses of representatives may be useful to you in making academic choices in high school. For instance, if you were to ask representatives if they would advise you to take AP World History next year or another math course, their response may be quite helpful to you in setting up your curriculum.
  • Many colleges would like a feel for whether or not an applicant is likely to accept an offer of admission if it is extended to them. The factors that influence their assessment are referred to as “demonstrated interest”. They include such things as attendance at high school visit sessions, college fairs, campus visits, interviews, and other meaningful contacts. At many college fairs, attending students are issued ID’s with bar codes that may be swiped at any college’s booth. This assures that your interest is noted. Also, this common practice establishes a communication channel between the school and you for subsequent admissions-related contacts.
  • You can use college fairs to practice your interview skills. Meeting with the college admissions representatives will help you when it’s time to engage in more important one-on-one interviews such as those with local alumni or admissions officials during your campus visits. You’ll be able to test questions you wish to ask and you’ll learn what kind of questions they are likely to ask you.

A student stands to benefit from attending a wide range of the many high quality college fairs provided by numerous organizations. A major organizer of college fairs is the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC). Hundreds of postsecondary institutions of all types exhibit at NACAC’s national and regional fairs. NACAC also holds special fairs for Performing and Visual Arts, International, and STEM students. Fairs are held in the spring and fall in cities located in all regions of the country so that no student needs to travel far in order to attend one.

Although they can be crowded due to the high level of interest in them, NACAC’s fairs are excellent and well worth attending. Ivy League and other top-tier schools also conduct separate, smaller college group gatherings. Below is a description of several of these organizations and the events that they conduct.

  1. The Coast to Coast College Tour

The Coast to Coast College Tour identifies itself as a “Joint Travel Partnership”. It includes Dartmouth College, Northwestern University, Princeton University, University of California-Berkeley, and Vanderbilt University. Each of these institutions practices holistic admissions and have highly selective acceptance criteria, so they have formed this organization and tour, “…to offer insight into the seemingly complex admissions process.” The next Coast to Coast College Tour is scheduled for spring of 2017.

  1. Exploring Educational Excellence

This group, which provides regional information sessions for prospective students and their families, includes Brown, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell and Rice Universities. Sessions include an overview of each institution, information on admissions and financial aid, and a chance to speak informally with admissions representatives.

  1. 8 of the Best Colleges

This program represents these eight nationally recognized liberal arts colleges: Claremont McKenna, Colorado College, Connecticut College, Grinnell, Haverford, Kenyon, Macalester, and Sarah Lawrence. Each of these highly selective residential colleges is distinctive. However, they have in common an emphasis on student-faculty interaction, small class sizes, and challenging curricula. For this reason, they have formed this group to present their common core values while also providing students with answers to questions about their individual qualities.

In the fall and spring, the Deans and Directors of Admission of the eight colleges hold a series of receptions for students and parents in locations around the country. The agenda features presentations on admissions, financial aid, and the schools themselves. There is also an opportunity to address questions to representatives of each of the individual colleges.

  1. Exploring College Options

Exploring College Options is a special recruitment program sponsored by the undergraduate admissions offices of five of the country’s leading institutions: Duke University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford University. In its annual tour, this program visits all 50 states. At each event, representatives from the five universities conduct slide presentations about their institution and answer questions about the complex admissions processes of their schools. Students and parents can learn what distinguishes one elite university from another, what each highly competitive college looks for in its selection process, and what a student can do to improve their competitive stature for admission.

  1. Suncoast Ivy League College Fair

This is an annual event at which the following institutions are represented by alumni interviewers: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Mt. Holyoke, Harvard, New College of Florida, Penn, Princeton, Smith, Vassar, and Yale. The next event will be held on the campus of the New College of Florida in Sarasota, Florida, on January 29, 2017. The stated goals of the event are, first, to allow admissions officials to learn more about student’s expectations for college, and, second, to help students find the right match among the participating schools for their talents and aspirations.

All of the above college fairs and events, including NACAC’s, are free of charge, but they do require advance registration. If you’re interested, please view their websites for more information.

IvySelect assists students in gaining admission to the nation’s top schools. We guide you through all steps in the admissions process. At the start of our engagement, your IvySelect college admissions consultant will work with you to develop an understanding of your educational and career goals, academic strengths and weaknesses, interests, talents, and preferences. With this information, we create a comprehensive admissions strategy that is uniquely yours. Part of this process is to help you identify and target those institutions that fit you best. With IvySelect, you’ll be confident that your targeted colleges are all great matches for you.