Has your high school junior been dreaming about attending the University of Michigan or Michigan State? Is Grand Valley State U, Albion, Michigan Tech, Kettering or Kalamazoo College more his or her speed? Does he or she have the crucial information needed to make an informed choice about where to apply to college?
Teens get a free front-row seat to the world of college – with accurate information about admissions – on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 when the Metro Detroit National College Fair heads to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. The event runs from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and again from 6 to 8 p.m.
Students also can attend a few special workshops: College Search 101 and Paying for College. The fair is sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling.
Metro Parent caught up with Holly Bennetts, a school counselor at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills and president of the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling, to get some best tips for working a college fair so you get what you need.
Why should a student attend the Metro Detroit National College Fair?
“College fairs are an excellent way for students to learn more about schools within Michigan and outside Michigan. It’s great practice to ask questions and interact with college admission staff in a low-risk environment.
“Colleges love to speak to prospective students and help them find their post-secondary path.”
What should students do when they arrive at the college fair?
“Go outside of your comfort zone. College fairs are a great opportunity to learn about different types of schools and figure out where you belong.
“Plan to visit two to three schools from each school type. That means visit with a small liberal arts college, visit with a large institution, visit with an in-state school and an out-of-state school, and check out a community college.”
What type of questions would you recommend a student ask college reps?
“Ask about financial aid, academic interests and favorite activities. You can start by asking college reps how colleges award scholarships and financial aid. Typically, the price that is advertised for a college is not what most students pay, so ask what the average net price is for a school.
“If you have a specific interest academically, ask about the program. The most popular major for a student entering college is undecided, so ask colleges how they help students figure out what they want to do.
“If you have a favorite activity like Model United Nations, robotics, Ultimate Frisbee, ask if the college has a club similar that you can join. You might also ask what a typical student does on weekends and consider talking about how you can arrange a campus visit to learn more.”
What should parents do at the Metro Detroit National College Fair?
“Parents should sit back and let their students take the lead. If, as a parent, you want to learn more about a school your child is looking at, check it out online or ask a question with your student’s permission.
“Talk about this with your child ahead of time. Your student will likely stumble over their words and forget to ask a question or two, but this is an excellent opportunity for them to learn self-advocacy skills.
“When I speak with college representatives, few tell me about a great conversation they have had with a parent; most will share about great conversations – even if they are awkward – they have had with a student.”
The college fair can be overwhelming. What should a student do with all the information collected at the college fair to make it useful?
“After the fair, go through your materials and look to see if there is a school you would like to learn more about. Go to the school website and sign up for more information.
“If there were colleges you particularly liked, and you have a contact person from the fair, send a follow-up email thanking them for their time. When you send the email, make sure you include a greeting, and write your name at the end.
“Visit with your school counselor or school college advisor to learn about the application process for the schools you are interested in.”
How can a student get help at the Metro Detroit National College Fair?
“In the center of the fair, there will be a table staffed by counselors affiliated with the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling; these college advisors are experts who would love to answer any questions you may have regarding the process, financial aid or general questions about the fair.”
There are so many booths and just a little bit of time. Which ones should a student visit?
“Visit schools that don’t typically come to your high school. Use this time to reach outside of who you would normally see. If you are not sure who comes to your school, ask your school counselor.
“This is an excellent time to expand what you know. Visit schools you have never heard of. With over 4,000 schools in the United States, there are bound to be schools that you have never heard of that may be perfect for you.”
What are your three best tips for making a college fair work for any student?
- “If you always thought about a big school, pick one or two small school booths to visit. Look at the list of schools participating before you arrive. Select the schools you definitely want to visit. Look outside the schools you normally would think about. Pick schools from different size and location categories – you might surprise yourself.
- “Talk to your counselor before you go to the college fair. Have your questions written down and bring something to take notes.
- “Follow up with schools you were interested in by speaking to your school counselor, joining the mailing list on the college website or sending an email to the representative that was there.”
Get more tips
The author of this post, Kim Lifton, is president of Wow Writing Workshop, based in Huntington Woods in Michigan. Her strategic communication and writing services company is a leading expert on the college application essay.
She works directly with students, and trains school counselors, English teachers and independent educational consultants.
To learn more about writing an attention-grabbing college essay, download a free electronic copy of Lifton’s book, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, The Inside Scoop for Parents.
Photo from the National College Fairs Facebook page.