The Private School Fair Pregame: How To Prepare Your Son For Maximum Impact
As the temperature drops and autumn approaches, so does a new admissions season. For prospective families, beginning the admissions process can seem like a mountainous task. I often hear parents ask, "There are so many schools to choose from. How do I find the best school for my child?" Unfortunately, there is no secret to this process. You should simply research, visit, visit again, apply, visit again, and choose. Easy, right? Not so much.
A lot of research goes into forming a prospective school list and narrowing it down. Luckily there are many private school based search engines like Niche.com that can help you, but the best way to learn about schools is to attend a private/boarding school fair with your child. Every fall, admissions officers from private/boarding schools travel to represent their schools at these fairs. Some fairs are large, with upward of fifty private/boarding schools in attendance, while others are smaller. Either way, a school fair is a great place to begin because you have the opportunity to speak with many different school representatives in a central location. If you choose to attend a school fair with your son, there are a few strategies that I would suggest you consider.
1. Remind Him To Eat Before the Fair
Many school fairs are held after the workday, around 5:30 or 6 p.m., which typically is a convenient time of day for parents; however, this time of evening usually is also right around dinnertime for many families. I would recommend that you provide your son or daughter with dinner before the fair instead of waiting until the fair is done. The last thing you want is for your child to be disinterested and irritable due to feeling 'hangry' during this important time.
2. Encourage Him to Create and Hand Out Information Cards
One of the most important purposes of a school fair is to exchange personal information with representatives from the schools attending. Instead of taking the time to write down your names, phone numbers, and address, help your son create his own information cards or stickers. With these easy-to-manage small documents, all your child will have to do is hand one to the admissions representatives at the end of their conversations.
To help you in your preparation, we created a student information template in Word. Simply have your son download this document, replace the fields with his information, print out on a heavy paper stock, and cut out each card.
3. Plan to Cast a Wide Net
Some families will walk into a fair with a working list of schools that they want to speak with, while others will arrive without a clue. I would suggest that you meet somewhere in the middle of these two scenarios. You should absolutely know which schools are attending the fair, but you don't need to arrive with a refined list. My suggestion is to let your child determine which school representatives he would like to visit. After this, take him to a few more tables that interest you before leaving the fair. Be sure to visit a wide variety of schools, as this is an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about each institution while in one centralized location.
4. Remind Him He Has One Chance to Make a First Impression
For the prospective students, look good, exude confidence, and smile. I am not saying that you have to dress up and wear a fake smile—because you would rather be at home playing Fortnite—but make use of the time that you spend at the fair. You want to walk away having learned more about certain schools or even the admissions process as a whole.
5. Encourage Him to Talk Confidently and Ask Questions
The purpose of a school fair is for you to have access to many school representatives in one location. Make use of having these individuals at your exposure. I would recommend that the child be the one to initiate conversations and to ask questions. Obviously, parents can be involved as much as they would like, but admissions representatives will be left with a better impression if much of the talking comes from the student. Lastly, whether it be a handwritten note or an email, send a follow-up correspondence to your five favorite school representatives. This personal gesture goes a long way.
School fairs exist to make your lives easier by bringing school representatives closer to you. Use the internet to search which school fairs are happening in your area this fall. Once you decide on a fair, go onto the host’s website to get more information regarding timing (some schools open fairs to the public at designated times), parking, specified dress, and the schools attending. Once you have this information, go take advantage of the opportunity!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Avon Old Farms Class of 2011
Director of Financial Aid