Finding the right college is one of the hardest–but most important–things for home-school high school students and their parents to do. One of the best ways to help your student determine which college they’d like to attend is to go to a fair. That is, a college fair.
Arranged like a home-school convention, each booth at a college fair hosts a particular college. And like a home-school convention, most of the booths will have giveaways of magnets, pens, and pencils. They will try to get you to take their college “view book”, and other literature about them. Non-college vendors are represented as well. You may see The Princeton Review, or The College Board or other organizations talking about college admission testing. Stop by those booths, if you see them, because they will often give you a free sample test to take home and try. Those vendors are trying to sell you on their review classes, as well as talk you into taking their tests (The SAT, PSAT, or ACT, etc.). Since every home-school student headed to college will take these tests, it’s important to get prepared.
A college fair isn’t a time primarily for parents! Much of it is centered on the students. Make sure your student dresses cleanly and neatly, but not necessarily dressy. You do see some teenagers that look bored or frustrated, but in general the colleges are there to meet the students. Have your kids ask questions of the colleges. They need to know if the college has the classes or major that they are interested in. Not all colleges have a degree in engineering or French, for example. Beyond academics, the student will want to know if their favorite activities are on campus. It may be important to your student to find out if they have a pool, a sorority, or a piano in the dorm. They want to find out about academics AND the social life. Have them speak directly to the college representative. Some kids are ready for this experience in middle school, but others wait until their junior year (11th grade.) to search for a college. Fill out the information cards that all the colleges have – unless you have decided that you are really NOT interested. As with a home-school convention, bringing address labels from home can really speed this process up. Ask the colleges how to get financial aid if you have any specific questions.
When you leave the fair, bring home the bag. Sometimes you will find some great information about colleges and financing college in those bags, so it’s worth looking through it. I found some great information about scholarships. My son found some concise articles about college life that he found helpful. You can read the brochures from colleges that didn’t attend the fair. The purpose of a college fair is to determine which college you want to visit. Whether you add colleges to your list, or eliminate colleges, you are still working toward your goal of finding the right college (and college scholarships) for your home-school student.
For residents of Western Washington, the Seattle National College Fair is just around the corner, hosted this year at the Washington State Convention Center on November 2nd and 3rd. Students can register here.
For home-school high school students who live on the eastern side of the mountains, Spokane Valley Assembly Church is hosting a college fair the evening of November 5th. More information can be found here.