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College Admissions: Portland Spring College Fair

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


A college fair is an educational opportunity for students and parents and a marketing opportunity for colleges. In the fall and spring many colleges send their admissions staff on the road to promote the school to high school students. The fall fair is larger, often with close to 300 schools in attendance. The spring fair is less overwhelming, but there will still be approximately 75 school representatives here in Portland eager to tell you why their school might be a good fit for you.

The PNACAC Portland regional spring fair is soon approaching.  University of Portland will be the host site for the event on Sunday, April 26, 2015 from 12:00 – 3:00 pm.  I encourage 9th, 10th and 11th grade students and their parents to attend the fair. 

As the event is automated, students are asked to register prior to attending the event, to eliminate filling out prospect cards at each college table every time.  The registration form is accessed from gotocollegefairs.com. After completion a barcode is created, which you should print and bring with you to the fair. Colleges will simply scan the barcodes to obtain your information. This streamlines the fair for students giving you more time to learn about the colleges that interest you. 

How does this work? 

  • Students access gotocollegefairs.com
  • Click on the “Student Register Now” button
  • Select the state, choose the fair you will attend
  • Complete the registration form once
  • Submit the form.  The barcode is displayed
  • Print – you are done!


Great feature; two days prior to the event, you will receive an attendance reminder email with a copy of their barcode attached.

Juniors, now is the time you want to be focused on your college list. If you haven’t started exploring, use the fair to do so. If you already have some schools in mind, check the list to see if they will be in attendance and please make an effort to show up at the fair and meet the rep. Demonstrated interest is one of many factors that are taken into consideration when applications are reviewed.

Sophomore and freshman, the college fair is a great place to explore. Go with an open mind and see what catches your eye. Talk with a lot of reps so you start to understand the pros and cons of larger or smaller schools, the sorts of programs and services offered and get a sense of both the academic and non-academic factors that go into deciding which schools you will apply to. 

The fair can be overwhelming if you just wander. It is a good idea to decide on some schools in advance that you want to check out and to head to those tables first. If possible, do some basic internet research first, so that you are not asking questions that have readily available answers on the school website. 

If a parent is unavailable, go with a friend. Have the friend take notes for you while you are talking about your interests and asking questions. You do the same for her/him. Once you have spoken with a few colleges, it’s easy to get confused about which college had which program. These notes will help you when it comes to filling out college applications, so keep them in a place where you can find them and be sure to record the date you spoke with the rep and get his/her name.

Walk up to the college’s table/booth. Shake hands firmly with the admissions representative. Offer your name, graduation year and your school. 

Potential questions to get you started:

  • What can you tell me about your _______________ department/program?
  • What are some distinctive, special or unique programs to your college?
  • What type of students does well at your school? What kind of students finds it a poor fit?
  • What programs do you offer to help freshmen adjust to college? What programs do you have that serve first-generation students or students of color?
  • What kind of tutoring or academic help is available?
  • Do you have any special housing options?
  • What do students do for fun on campus? (Ask about specific clubs or activities in which you are interested).
  • Do you offer buses or transportation to a city or other off-campus programs?
  • Do you offer Greek (fraternities & sororities) life? What percentage of students participates?
  • What traditions does your school have?
  • Does your school meet full demonstrated need? If not, what percent of need do you typically meet? What percentage of students receive merit aid? Is there an early scholarship deadline? What is the average debt of graduating students?


Share your interests, as it will allow the representative to highlight programs in which you may have interest. 

Grab his/her business card and send a thank you email when you get home. Let the rep know what you appreciated learning about the school. Make sure your grammar and spelling are top notch.

Jodi Walder-Biesanz is the founder of Portland, Oregon-based College Admission Coach LLC, which helps students identify and gain admission to right-fit schools where they will thrive academically and personally. Contact her at [email protected].


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