Between the middle of September and the end of October, admissions officers from schools across the country are out and about, traveling to their local regions and visiting with high school students at college fairs.  Chances are pretty good that your high school is already (and will continue) playing host to a bunch of colleges throughout the next few weeks.

If your child is in 10 -12th grade, you should plan to go to at least one of these events. And if your child’s school is not holding a college fair then I recommend that you plan to stop by the  NACAC College Fair at the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Convention Center on Tuesday, October 21st.

Why?

Well, there will be many great colleges, large and small, public and private, that will be in attendance, including some great “A” schools for “B” students, and of course, nearly every Florida school.    And, more than likely the person representing the college at the Fair is the actual person (or certainly one of the people) who will some day soon be reading your student’s essay.

So, what should you do at the Fair ?  Admissions officers LOVE to meet students who are engaging, asking questions, and inquring about their school. Schools love students who demonstrate interest (for reasons detailed below), so much so that they track it. So here’s a synopsis of what I tell my clients about attending a college fair:

1. Students should take initiative, allowing (helicopter) parents to play wing man at best.
2. Have a good attitude – greet people with a smile, a firm hand shake, and with tempered enthusiasm.
3. If you see a school you haven’t heard of, don’t be afraid to approach and inquire further.  This may be your diamond in the rough.
4. Be conversational and welcoming.  Often these folks are in from out of town.  Make them feel welcome by engaging them in conversation about anything that might make them feel comfortable.
5. You should have at least a general idea of your favorite academic subjects so that you can inquire about specific majors of study.  Make sure the school offers what you desire academically (regardless of their  success on the gridiron or hardwood).
6. Get business cards and send brief, follow up notes (email or letter) to those admissions officers who represent schools where you have interest.

Above all, remember that the college admissions and funding processes involves people making decisions about other people.  In an admissions process that has become increasingly competitive, technology-driven and financially motivated,  you DON’T want  the admissions committee to first find out about your student when his application arrives at their office.   Admissions officers face pressure, they have Admit Rates and Yield goals to meet, they compete with other schools (see note below for explanation of these metrics).  They have to be on because they want you to apply to their school, and they can be moody – they face quite a bit of rejection and disappointment.   Most are recent college grads themselves who are very eager to talk about their schools.  And many are away from home and on their feet (literally) a lot of the time.  So if you want to improve your chances of receiving that Thick Envelope some day (with a great financial offer to boot), go out there in the next few weeks, and show them some love!
Short Note on  why Admit Rates and Yields are so important in Admissions and Funding in today’scollege process.  Let’s start with the importance placed on Admit Rates (as in the number of students who apply to a school v. the number the school accepts).  The lower the Admit Rate, the more competitive the school is deemed (the higher the ranking assigned, the greater the perceived value in the market, the greater the perceived value, the more the school can charge, the better the story for fundraising and perhaps, the greater the access to capital in the financial markets.  Schools are literally incented to entice you to apply so it should be no surprise that we’re seeing record numbers of applications combined with the lowest Admit Rates in history.

Then there’s the Yield (or the percentage of students who are accepted who actually matriculate).  The higher the yield the better.  It’s one reason for the emphasis on ‘demonstrating interest.’ and binding Early Decision at some schools.  And yield is why schools are so closely tracking student interest – an engaged student who has stopped by the booth at the college fair, visited, called, liked, followed,  is more likely to say ‘yes.’  It’s one reason I’m a stickler for keeping my student’s lists to a reasonable number of schools.  Yield management is also a very important, very effective ‘negotiating’ tactic when appealing a financial aid offer.

For those of you interested in learning more about these metrics, how they factor in Admissions andFunding, and about how colleges competitively price, discount and recruit students (and how to put this knowledge to work for your family), then you should come to my College Planning class on Thursday evening (Oct 16 at 6:30 pm at the Pinecrest Community Center in South Miami).  It’s looking like this will be the last public workshop that I’ll be holding this year, so if you have a college-bound high school student at home, I highly recommend that you attend.  We’re already expecting a full class, so please make sure that you click here to reserve a seat and materials.  

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