When I took the PSAT for the first time (as practice), I was a freshman, and I barely knew a thing about what colleges were out there. I didn’t know how many, and where they were. I just knew that I wanted to know my options and I would accept anything to figure them out. This included College Board spamming me for the next three years, both via email and snail mail. I checked the box and put my email address (along with my home address) where I was asked if I would be okay with colleges receiving my information to contact me. This means I received a ton of mail, so much that I took my favorites and made a collage on my wall. And out of the many flyers they sent me, many were for college promotion events in my hometown.
These varied in type, location, and who would be attending, but I went to as many as I could convince my parents to take me to. Here was the opportunity to meet school officials and hear them pitch their schools to me.
So college promotion events tend to go like this:
they are held in a large room in a semi-nice to nice hotel in or near your town
at least one admissions officer from the college is in attendance, often the head one
they present to you on the awesomeness of their school, allow for questions, then break up for more individual interaction
These events are often held during the school year, sometimes during the school week, and if you’re a high school junior with a ton of physics homework due, you might think it’s not worth it. Especially if you have never heard of the school before, don’t want to apply, and thus see no reason to apply. Here’s why I think you should go.
They can be your benchmark for financial aid.
I had little understanding of financial aid when I started, and no helpful Prospect articles to help me out when I did. I still remember when my dad explained to me what need- and non-need-based financial aid was and understanding why college was more expensive than I thought it would be. Many schools have different types of financial aid policies and they can be confusing, and they can also be super helpful.
If you’re just now looking at colleges and you don’t know a thing about financial aid, attending a college promotion event for any college can be enlightening. These folks are going to have a section on financial aid (it will arguably be the one they spend the most time on) and they will answer any question you have on financial aid. This is a boon to you, because it’s free advice from people who know what they’re talking about. You also have the opportunity to learn about a school’s financial aid program and perhaps it will entice you. On top of this, you learn how to ask questions about financial aid, leading me to my next reason…
College promotion events teach you how to ask questions about what you want to know.
Speaking up in public isn’t my favorite thing. I don’t like giving presentations, and I find myself easily inhibited when I want to ask a question in class – will I sound stupid? But when I started to attend college promotion events, I sat and listened to the information. At first it all sounded fine. Then when the questions at the end started, people bombarded them with questions.
I learned what other people wanted to know and tailored it to me. I realized I wanted to know a lot about any clubs and organizations they had, and how easy it was to start one up. I decided that if they couldn’t explain their financial aid policy with clarity the first time, that was something I would definitely be asking about later. How much academic credit could I receive from my AP classes? How “safe” was their school in terms of weather? Was on-campus housing guaranteed for all four years? I didn’t know I needed these answers until I started attending these events and hearing what other questions people were asking. This helped me develop an ideal college in my mind. I wanted academic rigor, freedom to create with others and individually, and aid. By hearing colleges pitch to me well before I had to start deciding where I wanted to attend, I learned what they had out there, and how to go from there.
The exposure college promotion events provides is highly beneficial to your self-esteem – and your pocket.
Not going to lie, when I started out, I had doe-eyed, Rory Gilmore dreams of the Ivy Leagues. I was willing to apply to all of them to be accepted to as many and then some other schools on the side. But when I actually started looking into them, I realized a bunch of them weren’t at all what I wanted. I ended up applying to only one Ivy League that I actually was interested in and that made acceptance all the more sweeter. But that Ivy League was no longer my top school by the time I applied. I had fallen in love with a tiny, fantastic Tennessee school.
I also knew that anything offered to me by those two schools I could find at several other schools. Have you ever heard of Davidson College, Swarthmore College, Colorado College, Southern Methodist University, Trinity University, or Quinnipiac College? You might want to look into them if you haven’t. All of them are fantastic schools and many of them I attended a college promotion event for. If I hadn’t heard about them, I never would have applied, or considered it, and when I was rejected to a few schools, I felt okay because I knew that these schools weren’t end all be all on an excellent college career. This is the real reason we have “safety” schools guys. To remember that just because one door shuts, doesn’t mean another doorway isn’t as gilded and filled to the brim with opportunities as the prior one.
So there you have it – I loved college promotion events. I also loved applying to colleges, so going to these was personally just fun. It’s a great feeling when you attend these – you get a sense of your potential. And let me tell you, we all have a lot of potential, so it’s a nice boon. These events are free – they tend to have okay cookies, and you can work on your interpersonal skills. Not bad. And one more thing – go to a promotional event for a school you already want to attend. You might meet a student willing to show you around on campus if you visit, or just have more insight to what you need to do to get accepted. Or even – realize that this school isn’t the one for you. Have fun prospies!