Your Admissions Plan: College Networking Scenarios, 2

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Anne MacLeod Weeks
Anne MacLeod Weeks

Anne has worked in college admissions for four decades and has published extensively on all aspects of the process. She taught AP English, consulted for the College Board, and was a leader in various educational initiatives in independent schools.

Once your student has their elevator speech perfected, it is time to use it in two preplanned conversations. This will allow your description to feel natural and ingrained through practice. Our suggestions for college networking scenarios with the most bang for your buck? The college fair and the interview.

The College Fair

There are many types of college fairs. It is important to know the role of the college fair representative. This information tells you how impactful your student’s conversation will be.

The National College Fairs offer the least, because the alumni of the college (and not someone active in the admission office) host. If it is an alum, your student should be polite, but not spend an inordinate amount of time. They can simply establish who they are and why they admire the college. However, if it is a regional representative, it is worth securing extended eye contact and conversation.

The best college fairs are the ones the consortiums of private high schools host. Often, these schools invite only the local assigned admission representatives. In other words, your student will interact with the admission person who will be either reading or discussing their admission file. It is critical, at this type of fair, to prepare to interact highly efficiently with the representative. There will be many students vying for the representative’s attention.

Classic advice

In most how-to college fair articles, your student will hear the standard guidance:

  • Have pre-printed sticky labels with their name, address, high school, graduation year, email address, phone number to place on information cards in order to save time
  • Dress professionally
  • Meet without their parent – they can send their parent to pick up materials from schools while they interact with representatives
  • Give good eye contact, shake hands firmly, actively listen, have a notebook to take notes
  • Hand out a one-page resume

All good advice, but there is one thing that is absolutely critical to your student’s success in college networking scenarios: the questions your student asks.

Empowerly tip

This is where preplanning and research come into play. Your student should do the following well before the fair:

  • Identify with which colleges to speak, prioritizing the list.
  • Identify from which colleges the parent will collect materials, mostly those that are schools of possible interest but not high on the list.
  • For each prioritized college, create a page in the student’s notebook to list questions specific to that college, keeping the questions to a maximum of 5.
  • The five questions shouldn’t be information on the website or in marketing literature. The questions should communicate the student’s individual interests and needs, so the student to insert parts of the elevator speech into the conversation.
  • The student should have a pen and should write down notes in the notebook from the admission representatives’ answers. This will not only demonstrated the student is truly interested in the answers given and is organized, but it will also help the student remember the answers after a long night of talking to multiple representatives.

The Interview

Much like the college fair, the interview is a time to make a personal connection and to highlight interest. Some interviews will be designed as informational, some will be more personal get-to-know-you, and some will be with local alumni.

Classic advice

No matter which type of interview your student has, again, there are standard pieces of advice:

  • Dress professionally.
  • Maintain eye contact, shake hands firmly, actively listen.
  • Have questions prepared and take notes.
  • Meet without a parent (and be sure to always be polite around the parent, as admission staff will notice how parent and student interact).
  • Take time to think before answering questions – pausing indicates thoughtfulness.

All good advice, once again. However, take this a step further with research. What kinds of questions might the interviewer ask? Review your student’s elevator speech and think, again, about what aspects of your student match the mission and vision of the college.

Empowerly tip

And, since this is another one of our college networking scenarios, think about your own questions. What question can your student ask that will indicate a commitment to the college and thorough knowledge of what it has to offer. Avoid generalized questions, such as “what is the average SAT of admitted students?”

Better to ask, “My interest in the college is founded in the urban studies program, as I want to continue to work with homeless populations through a non-profit when I graduate. Looking at the average SAT scores, I know I place above the average, but what is the actual range of scores of the students who were admitted in the last two years?”  

A follow-up question might be, “what is the alumni support network like for students and graduates looking for jobs or internships? I would like to be able to get some experience with non-profit management before I graduate.”

College networking scenarios are your friend

Consistency in message, being well-prepared, and demonstrating knowledge of the college’s mission and vision will set your student apart in this competitive process.


Read the complete Your Admissions Plan series below.

  1. The Applicant Elevator Pitch
  2. College Networking Scenarios
  3. Essay Writing with Style
  4. Recommendations Proposal

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