Edited by Laura Morrison for GradSchools.com, February 2014
When you're thinking about applying to graduate programs, you might pay a visit to individual schools' websites and take a look around. However, these webpages aren't the only places you can go to find out about these institutions and the types of online graduate degrees you can pursue.
If you're fortunate, you may have an opportunity to attend a graduate school fair. Events of this nature provide a chance to take your information gathering to another level, thanks in large part to face-to-face interactions with program representatives. Here are a few things you should know before you make your way to these fairs:
What you can expect
Graduate school fairs go by many names. You may see an advertisement for a graduate school expo, or hear that a graduate school information session is fast approaching. These events all serve a common purpose - they provide prospective students with the information they need to find the right advanced degree program for them.
Where these events are held will also vary depending on your area. Large-scale fairs may take place inside a convention center, while schools are also known to host these events on their campuses. No matter where the fairs are being held, expect representatives from multiple graduate programs to be in attendance, ready to educate you about your academic options.
Typically, you'll be able to visit different stations that will either be dedicated to individual schools or programs. Program representatives will be manning these areas and will be ready to field whatever questions you have.
What you should bring
Part of having a rewarding experience at a graduate school fair is showing up prepared. One of the best ways to ensure this is to know what you should bring with you.
The College Board lists a few items students should bring to college fairs on its BigFuture website. As college fairs are so similar to graduate school fairs, it doesn't hurt to bring the recommended materials, including a list of questions, a writing utensil and a bag to put school brochures in.
If you're not sure what questions to ask, think about what you need to know about the school before you enroll. Have a case of writer's block? Consider a few of the questions the National Association for College Admission Counseling suggests, such as what size school do you want to attend or what should your major be?
What you should do at the graduate school fair
With the right materials, you're set to have a successful visit to a graduate school fair. While every event you attend will be different, there are a few things you can do to make your time there more fruitful.
The NACAC recommends you be adventurous and speak to representatives from different types of schools, rather than those that are considered "well known." At the same time, you should be taking notes on aspects of institutions you find most interesting. What you write down is essential to remembering key benefits to specific programs that could slip your mind later on.
Meanwhile, the College Board suggests you take enough time to speak to representatives from the schools that interest you. When you're at these booths, ask questions to which the answers may not be readily available, such as what type of student are you looking for?
Take these steps and you could be setting yourself up for a successful graduate school experience. This, in turn, may increase your chances of identifying your ideal graduate degree program.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010