Campus Visits

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College Fairs Coming To A Town Near You

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece that included a tip on college visits. With the winter behind us, the spring is a great time for high school juniors to get out and see the schools they are most interested in. College campuses are very active this time of year; students are out and about, some instructors will teach classes outside, and spring sports are in full-swing.

However, the spring is also a great time to cruise some college fairs. The National Association for College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) will be hosting their National College Fairs through the beginning of May and, in this region, you have several opportunities to attend. Fairs will be hosted in Hartford on April 3rd and 4th, New York on April 22nd, New Jersey on April 25th and 26th, Providence on April 28th, and in Boston on May 3rd and 4th.

Keep in mind, these fairs are huge – typically, you will find a couple hundred colleges in attendance. High schools from around the state will bus groups of students in during the day-time events and it will get crowded. You have limited time and you want to make the most of it. Here’s a couple tips if you elect to attend one of these fairs:

1. Have a plan before you enter the fair. In other words, know which schools you have to see and which ones you want to see. You will only have so much time at the fair before you need to leave or before it’s over. Make the most of that time.

2. Develop a list of questions you want to ask each school so that you can take notes and compare answers after the fair. Get all of your questions answered and make a connection with the admissions counselors who are representing the schools you are most interested in. There’s a good chance, these people will be the ones who will be reading your application.

3. Print your name, address, contact information, graduation year, intended major, GPA and test scores (if you have them already) on labels. Colleges will have inquiry cards for you to fill out and it’s a better use of your time to go with a label than it is to fill out all of this information by hand.

4. Pick up a directory when you enter the fair. Again, these fairs are very big and very crowded. You want to be able to easily find your have-to’s and your want-to’s. If there’s time left over, cruise the aisles and see if there are any schools that you might have overlooked. You will want to grab a bag when you enter the fair as well for all the materials you will be taking home with you.

5. If you are attending the fair with friends as part of a school trip, enjoy the bus ride to and from the fair with them. When you’re at the fair, you should be all business. I can’t tell you how many times I worked a fair and saw students who were treating it like a field trip. Attending a college fair isn’t about a day off from school, it’s about your future!

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on making the most of college fairs, please use the comment box below. You can also email me directly at

Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Is Freshmen Year Of High School Too Soon To Prepare For College?

This past Wednesday, the NY Times ran a piece titled, College Hunt Starts Earlier at New Breed of Schools. The article focused on how some for-profit schools in New York City were starting a formal college search process for their freshmen. At one school, 7th and 8th graders are even allowed to take a three day trip to visit college campuses. While I believe there are true benefits of starting your college planning prior to junior year, I think taking 7th and 8th graders on campus tours is pushing it a bit.

But when is the right time to begin your search? Do you really need to start when your son or daughter starts their freshman year? With the pressure of getting into a good school getting more intense each year – can you afford to wait until junior year?

Well, here’s my take on it.

I don’t believe in pushing a formal college search process on freshmen because, in my experience, it’s too soon and they’re just not ready for it. There will be plenty of time to be stressed out when they are juniors and seniors and the college process is really moving along full-steam.

Having said that, I strongly believe that freshmen should at least be thinking about the things that are most important to them. What subject areas are they more interested in and why? What activities might they want to get involved in? Are they interested in playing for one of their school’s sports teams? Is there a hobby that they spend a lot of time with? It’s this exploration and fleshing out of who they are and what’s important to them that can be so helpful not only with leading into conversations about college, but for their overall development as well.

For freshmen, and even sophomores, creating opportunities to get them thinking about who they are and what’s important to them is what’s important. This way, as they prepare for each successive year in high school, they can make informed decisions about which classes to take and how much time and energy to devote to their sports and activities. And that’s the key here: making informed decisions. When nearly 50% of students fail to graduate from the schools they enrolled in as freshmen, knowing who they are and what they want out of their college experience is such a valuable exercise.

So, if you have a freshman or sophomore, try just having some conversations about school, get them talking about the things that are important to them and try to have some fun with it. Lastly, let it be okay for the craziness of the college search to be put on hold until they are entering junior year. You will be glad you did.

If you have any questions on what you should or should not be doing at any stage of the college search process, you can reach Eric at

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