The ultimate college fair guide

By Katrina Fadrilan
Courtesy of University of Southern California.

College fairs are a great opportunity to peek into your future and help you decide which colleges to apply to. To help you get the most out of your college search experience, we've put together this guide of what to bring, what to ask, and what to expect. Look out college, here you come!

What to bring to a college fair

  • You looking your best! Making a good first impression is important!
  • Pen and notebook for the notes you'll take about each university (HINT!)
  • Bag or backpack to carry all the brochures and swag you'll get
  • A few dozen mailing labels with your name and address for the loads of inquiry cards you'll want to fill out for any schools you're interested in. These are received by the admissions office and add "interest points" to your application. Some additional info you may want to include on your labels to save time:
    • Cell phone
    • Age
    • High school grad year
    • Major or area of interest

Before you go

Admissions counselors will be very busy with long lines of students, so make the best use of your and their limited time. Research colleges and read student reviews about schools you're interested in before you go. If you can, find out which colleges will be at the fair and make sure you have five to 10 schools in mind to definitely visit — schools at the top of your list, or just schools you want to know more about. Otherwise, you may run out of time without ever meeting some of the reps from your top-choice schools.

What to ask at a college fair

Does winning the fifth-grade spelling bee count as an honor or award?

Have a list of questions ready that you’d like to ask about each school. Focus on questions that aren't easy to find answers for online.

  • What's the best thing about the school?
  • What's the worst thing?
  • What type of student succeeds at the school?
  • What can you be doing in your junior/senior year to make sure you're on track to get accepted?
  • What is the total cost of tuition and room and board?
  • How much of a student's financial aid is typically met?
  • What scholarships and grants do they offer?
College application questions

Admissions counselors and university representatives typically go over major points of the application process at a college fair, such as acceptance rates, average GPA, and which tests are required.

Make sure they don’t skip over this important information:

  • What’s the average GPA for admitted students?
  • What’s the average SAT or ACT scores of admitted students?
  • Which tests do they prefer (SAT, ACT, SAT subject tests, all AP scores)?
  • What makes a student’s application stand out, aside from academic achievements?
  • Do they offer Early Decision (binding acceptance) and Early Action (non-binding acceptance)?
  • How much does it cost to apply? Do they offer financial aid for application fees?
College life and academics questions

College acceptance criteria is important, but there are many other factors to consider when choosing which colleges to apply to. Asking the right questions helps you determine which college is right for you.

  • What distinguishes it from other schools — academically and socially?
  • What do students do for fun?
  • Are the campus dorms large or small? How many are there?
  • What percentage of students live on campus?
  • What are the options for visiting campus and how do you schedule a tour?
  • What’s the average class size?
  • How available are professors?
  • Do students get one-on-one time with professors?
  • What are some of the clubs, academic, and honors programs available?
  • What are the dining plan options?
  • What are the most popular majors on campus?
  • What is the most renowned department?
Boring, but VERY important questions


These are a lot of questions, but don’t be afraid to ask them! It will not only show how eager and curious you are, but it will also demonstrate your initiative to the admissions counselors.

What to expect at a college fair

Now that you know what to bring and ask, prepare yourself for:

  • Long-winded speeches
  • Lots of statistics
  • Tons of other students
  • Helicopter parents
  • Expect to feel anxious, yet excited, to see the future of college open up to you!

Once you finally organize all those college fair pamphlets and free swag, check out our College Search, College Match, and Scholarship Match to help you find and pay for the right school.

Gifs courtesy of Giphy.

About the author

Katrina (who also goes by Kat, though she's more of a dog person) is currently in her second year at NYU. She's pursuing a double major in public relations and English, with a minor in Spanish. A native San Franciscan, she loves exploring cities, binge-watching all films, and, of course, writing.