College Fairs Go Virtual
For high school students trying to pick the perfect college, the best thing to do is personally visit all of your top choices, meet professors, sit in on classes, and eat in the dining halls. But this isn’t realistic. That’s why students and parents rely on local college fairs to meet college representatives and ask probing questions about schools. These fairs are also great ways to learn about schools that you’ve never heard of before.
HOWEVER, according to an article on eSchool News, more students and schools are turning toward “virtual college fairs” to fill this need. Colleges, large and small, are short on cash of late. They can’t afford to send representatives and erect information booths at every college fair around the country. At the same time, they need to continue to extend their outreach because competition for top students is fierce.
Similarly, high school students and parents can’t afford to visit every college fair in an 100 mile radius, nor every college on their lists. Virtual college fairs seem like a good alternative. And virtual fairs should be complemented by additional online resources and carefully selected in-person visits to form a solid strategy for picking the perfect college.
The Virtual College Fairs mentioned in the eSchool News article are hosted by three organizations:
- CollegeWeekLive: This service is free to register for and has a wide selection of colleges from across the United States, and a few from around the world. Register now to make sure you can virtually attend Nov. 4th – Nov. 7th, when they “open their doors”. For more information, check out the eSchool News article.
- Tom Joyner Virtual College Fair: This free service is primarily geared toward Black high school students, offering one virtual college fair exclusively for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Tom Joyner also features information about Black fraternities. It appears to be open all the time, but I couldn’t find any live interaction features.
- Green College Tour: This service focuses on mid-tier colleges from across the country. The format of the virtual fair is not very clear from their website, but registration is free (if you want colleges to contact you). Occasionally, representatives from the colleges are available for live chat through the site.
If virtual college fairs were around when I was looking for a school, I wasn’t aware of them. They may have helped me to avoid an embarrassing moment at an in-person fair: I blushed pretty hard after enthusiastically grabbing a number of brochures from Bryn Mawr College before being politely informed by their representative that it was an all girls school.
I visited two colleges in person, which solidified my decision to attend RIT. But well before that, I had spent countless hours on FastWeb and The Princeton Review absorbing information about colleges and admissions. If I had known about the college rankings from U.S. News & World Report, I would have been studying that too. (NOTE: There are a similar rankings and information focused on United Kingdom schools available at the Times Online Good University Guide.) These online resources are invaluable.
For current high school students looking at colleges, you should be checking out all of these websites and signing up for virtual college fairs. Registration, if necessary, is free and easy. If you don’t have regular internet access at home, or even if you do, ask a teacher if you can go to your school’s computer lab during study hall or free periods. Good luck.