By Gregg Ficarra
March 13, 2020, was the last, in-person, college fair I ran at Moraine Valley College in suburban Chicago. Then the COVID-19 restrictions hit and the rest, shall we say, is history.
While we are all settling into the new normal and adjusting to what we can and cannot do, in-person college fairs, at least temporarily, have been placed on hold. As most of you know, a typical college fair usually brings college admission folks and high school students with or without their parents together. Normally the event is held in a gym or large hall. For obvious health reasons, I don’t think that will be happening for a while!
The college admissions process continues but looks a little different. Colleges still need to recruit qualified students while students and their parents are interested in finding the perfect place for their higher education needs. Welcome to the virtual college fair world.
I know what you are thinking. Great, another virtual event. But wait, virtual college fairs really work! They are easy to navigate and are quite an effective way to start the college search process. So, let’s take a look at how a virtual college fair works. So that you have a complete understanding of the process, we are going to take a look through two lenses. First from the college perspective, then the student/parent side.
Once a college/university has decided to participate in a virtual college fair they have to build their booth. These virtual booths are chock full of pertinent information about their institution. They post information about campus life, courses of study, acceptance requirements, tuition, housing, and application deadlines. They can also include videos about financial aid, scholarships, or even a virtual campus tour. Everything you want to know about the participating colleges will be in these booths.
Students, Parents, and Guidance Counselors have to register online to attend the virtual college fair. You have to provide an email address and create a password. Once that is complete students will be asked to create a profile. This profile includes information that will be used by colleges to determine if you are a good fit for their school and if they are a good fit for you. On the day and time of the virtual college, fair students will log in using their email address and password. (By the way, the platform/website is completely secure and no information is shared with a third party). Once you enter the virtual fair you will see all of the college logos. If you click on a logo, you will enter the booth. Once you are in the booth you can communicate with a college admissions representative, in real-time, by joining a group chat or by requesting a one-on-one chat. You can also just enter the booth, look around, gather the information you need, and leave to visit another booth. Every time you click on a booth that institution gains access to your profile which they consider a lead.
The entire process is user-friendly, secure, and as I said earlier, a great first step in the college search process. Let me offer a few tips to make your participation in our virtual college fair a positive and productive experience:
- Spend some time before the fair to develop questions you can ask the college admissions representatives. These questions should be based on what’s important to you.
- Think about the location of the college. Do you want to attend a large university or a small college? Do you like city life or prefer to be in a rural setting?
- Do you have a major in mind? If not, that’s ok, a lot of students enter college with an undeclared major.
- While it is important to be aware of tuition costs, don’t let it be your only criteria. Most colleges/universities offer a variety of scholarships and financial aid.
- It is good to have a list of colleges that are your top choices, but keep an open mind when attending the fair. You may find a school that you never heard of that turns out to be a perfect fit.
- Please keep in mind that if you choose to chat with a college admissions representative, that person will probably be reviewing your application and deciding if you get accepted to their school. Make a good first impression!
- The Tablet’s Virtual Catholic College Fair is on Friday, Nov. 13 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. then again at 4:30 – 8:30 p.m. Registration ends at 7 a.m on Nov. 13. To get a head start at registration, check out the online college directory: https://nyc.educationconnectlive.com/
Be prepared! Bring your A-game to the virtual college fair! Best of luck and may God watch over you as you navigate the college search process.