Here’s what a parent shared with me about his recent college fair experience, “I walked in and was overwhelmed, while I was there I got lost and when I left I was confused.”
These are common sentiments. There is no doubt the college fair is overwhelming. It is the definition of information overload.
There are hundreds of colleges lined up in no seemingly organized fashion (it would be easier if they were in alphabetical order), some college representatives appear lonely because no one is stopping by their booth while other colleges are so popular you can’t make your way to the table.
It is just a giant whirl of anxious parents and stressed-out teenagers.
So you leave with 20-plus pounds of college literature including DVDs, viewbooks, course catalogs, fliers and business cards. But what happens next?
Get organized. The first rule of college fair follow-up is to not leave all the information in the bags in a big pile on the floor. Get it all organized sooner rather than later.
Create a filing system and put any notes you made with the literature. Recycle whatever materials are no longer of interest by offering them to friends or taking them to your high school guidance office so they can loan them out to other students.
Examine the options. Ask your child to review two or more colleges each day and identify the most interesting. Have him or her make a long list of college options and then prioritize the choices.
Research the colleges. It will be important to do your best to classify each school that makes the final list as either a “reach”, “target” or “safety” school.
Use the middle 50 percent AT/ACT scores as a guideline. If your child’s scores are in or just above the middle 50 percent, consider it a target.
Students will typically need scores of 50 to 100 points higher on the SAT and 2-3 points higher on the ACT for it to be considered a true safety. If their scores are below the middle 50 percent, it’s a reach.
Check the websites. Go beyond the reviews and the guidebooks and spend some quality time on the college website and research the course catalog and the lists of clubs and student activities.
Follow-up. If you had a conversation with a college representative and it’s a college that is likely to make it to the final list, then it’s a good idea to send a thank-you note. A personal handwritten note is the best, but email is fine.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com
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