I recently tweeted about my experience at the New York Times College Life Fair with Penn Admissions Officers Blair Godfrey and Teran Tadal (check out our picture). We enjoyed presenting Penn to the 6,000 students from Chicago area schools – primarily the Chicago public schools – and their counselors and teachers, who are to be thanked for their commitment on such a rainy and cold day. A moment that shows that you have to improvise and roll with the punches in the college search process was when the ceiling started to leak on the deans’ panel, literally, which humanized the process and gave parents and students some comic relief. Other highlights included navigating the mixed-use space, which allowed for presentations and booths, listening to friends and admissions experts speak, and, of course, answering student questions. After returning to Philadelphia, Blair, Teran and I came together to offer readers advice on their next college fair:
• To quote my colleague Jacques Steinberg on “Good Day Chicago” last week: “Start by interviewing yourself.” Spend time – a week maybe – thinking about what you like to study and do right now as well as how you can pursue these interests at college and beyond. The 5Is will help you get started before you jump into the college fair scene.
• Embrace your techie side. If you own a smartphone, use the QR codes printed on publications to sign up for mailing lists with ease. Do online research beforehand so that we, as admissions professionals, can address specific interests rather than broad inquiries.
• If expert speakers are present, take time to listen to them. I know it can be tiring to attend presentations and visit individual college booths; however, you will appreciate your newfound knowledge when you arrive home and begin tackling your next steps…
• Organize your publications into piles after the fair. Which schools did you like and which schools weren’t a good fit for you? Why? Are you reacting to a gut feeling, the majors that the University offered, or something else? With this initial information, you can begin putting together your college list and start planning campus visits.