If you're currently looking to launch your first virtual college fair for your district, CBO/NGO or high school - you are not alone. The ongoing changes in the college access space have created havoc on many of the traditional ways our students would connect to institutions. However, if you see it as an opportunity to expand the access point for your students, the possibilities are endless.
Making these events a valuable exchange for both students and institutions is paramount and the list below will give you a guide to a true and tried format that will produce happy students and administrators.
Here are 5 tips to get your virtual college fairs off the ground the right way:
Keep them small and targeted
Our data suggests that each student is likely to engage with approximately 3 to 5 institutions in any single event and institutions are looking to connect with, on average, 25 students per event. To keep this ratio you would want to have approximately 75 to 125 institutions and over 600 students participating. Though this is not perfect, this general rule will give you a yardstick to see if you have enough students and institutions to make this a win-win for both sides.
Invite parents first
There is no doubt these events are for students to engage with institutions, however, parents can be the best starting point in getting the first few registrations going. Generally, parents are likely to be at home when their children are attending these events. So it’s better to give them early notice when you’re hosting your college fair.
Parents will certainly help in generating a high sign-up rate on the onset of your registration, but it will be the students that will likely sign-up the most leading up to the event. It is completely normal for over 80% of signups to occur within a week or less of the actual fair. This may cause you some heart palpitations, but don’t sweat it, it's just the nature of this beast.
Invite your colleges wisely
It is really important to have the right set of institutions at your table. Not only do you want to provide a mix that will be valuable for your students, you also don’t want too much lopsidedness in which institutions get the most demand. Each college has its own value and outside of the top 100 institutions in the country, most don’t have the brand awareness to drive demand. This does not make them inferior, just not as well known.
The list of institutions you craft will depend heavily on which factors your students care about the most: prestige, affordability, programing, location etc. There is no silver bullet here but a good rule of thumb is to ensure that you are not overly weighing one category over another.
Pick the right day and time
The day and time you decide to host your fair should focus on driving the most show-ups possible. Out of all the virtual fairs we have run on VisitDays, here is a snapshot of the days of the week that have the highest attendance on Tuesday and Wednesday after 2 PM EST.
Since it’s an average, there is obviously more to the data. However, this shows that between Sunday and Monday, the show-up rate is negligible and Wednesday is the clear winner.
Focus on a theme
Opening up access to higher education is the ultimate goal of a college fair. It brings options in a scalable and highly personalized way. If you are in the process of getting your first college fair off the ground, or you want to improve the experience from your previous one, focusing on a theme will immediately increase your chances of success.
Themes could be geographical, academical, institutional and/or cultural. Here at VisitDays, we have hosted fairs for arts majors, spanish speaking parents and students, northeast regional, etc. From this, we have noticed that hosting a fair with a very specific theme resonates much more than one that is generic. A theme allows you to easily bring attention to a specific topic that all institutions and students can relate to. It also gives each student and institution an opportunity to talk about something that has been predetermined, making the conversations richer and easier to have.
The main focus needs to be on making the parent and student experience valuable and the experience of the institutions productive. Parents and students are joining these events to be able to meet with the institutions at the top of their list and add 1 to 2 more institutions they would not have considered. Unfettered access directly to the administration of these institutions provides one of the most valuable resources parents and students could imagine. Especially for those in lower socioeconomic circumstances, this type of access has long been elusive and to break this pattern is one small step to a more equitable world.
If you want to host your college fairs for free, start a free trial today or reach out to start the conversation.