Health & Family

Countdown to College: How to make the most of a college fair

The annual College Fair is coming to Charlotte March 8 (, and it’s not your parents’ College Fair any longer.

Just as the college admissions process has changed dramatically over the last few decades, so too has the annual College Fair. In the “old days,” attending the College Fair was a little akin to the famous Filene’s Basement “Running of the Brides” annual wedding gown sale. That’s where anxious brides and their mothers lined up for hours, and when the doors opened they dashed in and scooped up as many dresses as possible, even trying them on in the middle of the store. It was utter chaos.

The old College Fair was just that crowded but not nearly as exciting. Families waited and waited for the prospect of introducing themselves to a college representative only to finally arrive at the table and find business cards and brochures had all been snatched up.

So what’s new?

The single biggest difference is that students now need to register at prior to attending. Fill out the appropriate forms and print out the barcode. This will allow you to “flash your pass” at any college table instead of filling out information cards and spend quality time at the colleges where you’re really interested. Parents can also register on behalf of their children. This is a great idea if your children are not able to attend, or if you choose to divide and conquer as a way to talk to more colleges. Registering also allows colleges to follow up with you.

Plan of action

Check out the list of colleges attending your local College Fair because not every college attends every fair.

Discuss your priorities: size, cost, majors of interest, two- or four-year college, far away or close to home, etc.

Make a list of the college representatives you’re interested in meeting.

Check out the workshops available.

Here are the workshops at the Charlotte College Fair:

▪ 1-1:45 p.m. – How to Pay for College; The College Search: Where Do I Begin?; Selective College Admissions: Getting Into Selective Schools; Middle School Students: Planning for College; The SAT: Connecting Students to College Success.

2-2:45 p.m. – How to Pay for College; College Aid and Affordability; Opportunities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities; The ACT: What YOU Need to Know; The SAT: Connecting Students to College Success.

▪ 3-3:45 p.m. – College Aid and Affordability; The NCAA: What a Student Athlete Needs to Know; The ACT: What YOU Need to Know; Scholarships: Finding Free Money for College.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:

More information

Charlotte College Fair

When: Noon-4 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Park Expo and Conference Center, 2500 E. Independence Blvd.

Cost: Free; $7 to park.

Details:; email or call 703-373-2421.