Your Education Event Gameplan, Explained
Attending an in-person or virtual education event? Here's your ultimate guide to getting the most value for your time.
So you've got an education event coming up — or you're considering attending one, at least. Events like these are a great way to break the veil of mystery around college and university admissions: you'll find the school reps just want to share info and help you make the right decision for you.
Still, it can be intimidating showing up to a convention hall floor, or even a virtual event room, and not knowing where to start. So today, we bring you your education event gameplan! Follow these guidelines to get the most value out of your time when attending an education event.
Before the event
Here's what to do before the event itself.
Register for the event
Before the event begins, be sure that you register! Many events will be happy to accept "walk-ups," but some may not have the capacity. So if you're able to register ahead of time, do so.
At the very least, you'll get reminders about the event, and probably some details in your inbox about what to expect. You may even be entered to win prizes by registering!
Check out the list of exhibitors
Most events will have a list of exhibiting schools and organizations that will attend the event. It's a good idea to scan the list to see if any names stand out to you as especially interesting.
Make note of the schools that catch your eye so you can be sure to visit their booth at the event.
Double-check the location — and your transport options
For in-person events, make sure you confirm the location and timing. Then check what your transportation options are:
- Can you take public transit?
- Will you need to arrange a ride?
- Is there anyone you could carpool with?
You don't want to be caught flat-footed on event day!
For virtual events, it's a good idea to check out the platform ahead of time, if you can, to ensure your phone or laptop has the right tech necessary to access the portal. In most cases, a strong internet connection and an updated web browser will be all you need!
Think about some questions to ask
We've done the hard part for you. Whether you're chatting with school reps, or student ambassadors, it can help to have some questions prepared ahead of time. Here are some resources to help get your brain going:
Be sure to bring your phone to take notes, or its stone-age ancestor, pen and paper.
Bringing people along
Many students travel to events like these with a parent: generally a good idea, as your mom or dad might have different concerns (especially around cost!). It can also be fun to visit with friends instead. Going solo might let you get deeper into the weeds on certain topics, but having a partner in crime by your side might help stimulate new conversations.
During the event
It's event day! Here's some advice for having a successful, productive experience at the event.
Maybe not hours early, but showing up a few minutes before the event begins is a good idea, whether it's online or offline. You'll generally get a more enthusiastic response from participants (both schools and students!) when energy levels are high. Plus, you won't miss anyone if they need to depart the event before the end time!
Check out the presentation schedule
Most events, in-person or online, will have a schedule of presentations or seminars, some of which will probably interest you more than others. When you arrive, double-check the schedule, and make note of where you need to be, and when, to catch the bits that appeal to you.
Make a few notes to yourself on your schedule so you don't get carried away in exploring and miss the session you most wanted to attend.
If you do end up missing a presentation or seminar that you were eager to attend, your best bet is to visit that exhibitor's booth and ask for the short version. They may even have a recording link they can share, or a handout that covers the same topics.
Tour the exhibitor floor
This will be a lot easier for online events, as all the exhibitors will likely be listed on a single page — perhaps divided into certain categories, like school type or location.
If you're in-person, get your steps in, and do a circuit of the exhibitor booths to see who's who, and where they're located. You might spot an exhibitor you didn't expect, so getting a sense of who's around can help you decide how best to spend your time.
Chat with exhibitors
It's go time! The clock is ticking, so grab hold and start visiting the exhibitors that interest you most. You may find line-ups at the biggest or most popular schools, so you can either join the line, and chat with your neighbours while you wait, or approach booths with shorter waits to get right into things.
School reps will often have a spiel to give you, or they may want to ask you some questions about who you are and your goals. You don't have to have all the answers, but try to be honest and open about your interests and concerns. Reps will have advice and insight to share even if you're not interested in their institution.
Remember to use a few of the questions you prepared earlier!
Exhibitors will generally expect you to ask questions about the institution, but if you're the quiet type, they'll likely be more than happy to give you an overview of everything you need to know. The best school reps will ask you questions about your interests and goals, and share advice that will benefit you no matter which school you attend. As long as you're curious and courteous, you'll fit right in!
This is a great opportunity to take notes, too. You've got your phone, no doubt, but pen and paper is even better — as long as you can read your handwriting!
Before leaving the booth, grab a business card, or scan a QR code so you have a way to get in touch in future to ask further questions or seek clarification. (You can always unsubscribe later!)
(Pro-tip: if you get cornered by an exhibitor or school rep that doesn't interest you, be polite but firm. A "thanks but no thanks" goes a long way: don't feel compelled to stand and smile dumbly while a school rep prattles on. You only have so much time at the fair! All that said, it doesn't hurt to spare a few moments on serendipitous surprises.)
Chat with other students
There will be plenty of others in the same boat as you also attending the fair. It's a lot easier to strike up a conversation in-person, assuming you're not too nervous, but most online event platforms will have a messaging tool for you to try.
In-person, say hi to other students at the same booths or presentations. Online, check out user profiles to find others with similar program interests or backgrounds to you.
The basic idea is to swap stories and compare notes on what you've found, what you're wondering about, and what your next steps are. Talking to strangers can be intimidating, but it's actually quite good for you: many studies have found that talking to strangers can actually boost your happiness level. Swallow your nervousness and just say hi!
If things go well, why not swap contact info, too? That's what social media is for, after all!
After the event
Phew, you made it! We hope you learned a bit about your options, and perhaps you're considering your next steps in a new light. Here's how to seal the deal.
Review any literature you picked up
In-person events love swag. You might have grabbed some brochures and paperwork: now's the time to leaf through them. No, you probably won't read them cover to cover, but give a look to what you've got and save the stuff that's most interesting or relevant.
Catch up via email
You may receive some email comms (or even phone calls or texts!) if you requested more information. You can reply to the sender and get a chat going; recruitment advisors love to speak online and off-, so you can get any clarifications or answers to new questions.
Start planning for the next event!
You probably won't make your final decision on where and what to study after just a single event. Colleges and universities attend plenty of online and offline events, especially during the fall and winter seasons, so keep an eye out for more opportunities to meet and connect with schools and fellow students.
The broader and more varied your network, the more likely you are to find the right place for you to fit in and succeed — during school, and long after graduation!
Got more tips for attending events? Share them with our team on Instagram, and we might add them to our list!
(PS: Looking for a chance to test your skills? The SchoolFinder Virtual Fall Fair is November 29, from 5-9 PM ET, and you can join us for free by registering now.)
Good luck at your next event, and have fun!
Find your next event now