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Making the Most of Graduate School Fairs
Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert
Chicago, IL
Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Making the Most of Graduate School Fairs

Chicacgo, IL - August 3, 2020:   Making the Most of Graduate School Fairs

1. Arrive as close to the official start of the event as possible While a several hour-long event may sound like more than enough time to make your rounds, you'd be surprised at how many attendees get wrapped up in enthusiastic and energetic conversations with program reps and never quite get to connect with all of the schools on their list. So get there early to give yourself as much time as possible. And of course, be sure to utilize your preferred method for note taking and contact organization. This will allow you to track which reps provided what information.

2. Be mindful of your appearance and etiquette. Remember: Just as you are evaluating the appearance and manners of admissions representatives, so they are evaluating you in those areas, too. The adage "first impressions are lasting ones" is as true today as it was two centuries ago. When I was Dean of Admissions at Columbia, University of Chicago, and Northwestern, I made notes on candidates I met at grad fairs, for better or for worse.

3. Visit with as many representatives as possible. While it is important to do your research prior to attending a grad fair, try to avoid being too set on exactly which program reps you want to connect with. You would be wise to meet with every individual representing a program in which you are interested. Remember: An informed opinion and perception of a program is where you end up after doing all of your research (and making connections), not where you start out.

4. Have some questions ready. Just as you would for a job interview, come prepared with a least a few questions. While you do want to make an impression and prepare questions that cast you in a good light, the main goal of your questions should be to collect whatever information you need to make an informed decision (or perhaps, allay any concerns that you may have).  Below are two extremely important questions to ask:

     a. How do you make decisions on applications? Do not help the representative by, for example, asking about the specific importance of grades, test scores, or extracurricular activities. Just let them tell you how applicants are evaluated. For example, if you are told that you need a certain GPA or test score to be admitted, do you really want to apply to an institution that evaluates you primarily based on numbers?

     b. May I see the results of a recent student satisfaction survey? If the answer is that they do not conduct surveys, or that you are not permitted to see the results of surveys they do conduct, put that in your notes. You will want to ask yourself if you want to attend an institution that does not task their students for feedback, or that does not release survey data.

5. Say "thank you" and request a business card from each representative you meet. This is just plain common courtesy.

6. Send a thank you note to those who left a positive impression. Sending a follow-up note to share your gratitude and reaffirm your interest offers you an "in" for future communication (beyond the generic admissions office's email address) should you decide to apply.

7. Create a spreadsheet and record your impressions. One of the best ways to remember all that you learn at the fair is to record that information on a spreadsheet. You can list your program options in alphabetical order, thereby reducing the temptation to rank them too soon, and then record responses to the two questions you asked each representative along with other information you gather about your program options.

By utilizing these tips, you will be able to maximize your experience at a Graduate School Fair, dramatically increase your chances of finding the best graduate program for you, and enjoying one of the greatest experiences of your life.

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Name: Dr. Donald C. Martin
Group: Grad School Road Map
Dateline: Chicago, IL United States
Direct Phone: 773-549-7639
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