A good first impression is key.
Before you begin applying to advanced degree programs you will likely attend a graduate or professional school fair. According to the University of California Berkeley, at these events recruitment representatives from a number of graduate schools across the country will gather to provide attendees with detailed information about their institutions and the degree programs they offer. These fairs are akin to careers fairs and should be regarded as such. In other words, graduate school fairs are professional events and making a good impression is absolutely key.
If you're nervous about attending your first-ever graduate fair, try not to worry. Relax and review the list of tips for first-time attendees below:
1. Do you research
It's imperative not to arrive at the fair unprepared. You should have a solid idea about the schools and programs that most interest you. It's also a good idea to review the list of attendees and rank them in terms of importance, the University of California Berkeley advised. Who do you want to speak to the most? What program is most compelling to you? Make it a point to visit those booths first.
2. Dress sensibly
Idealist stressed that business formal attire isn't necessary for a graduate fair – you're not applying for a job after all! With that said, the source noted that business casual wear is preferable. Put another way, it's a good idea to wear an outfit that is somewhat conservative and not too casual. First impressions count and if your attire is too casual the recruiter may feel that you don't take your graduate school search seriously.
"Business casual wear is preferable."
3. Bring a bag
At the fair you'll likely be receiving a lot of literature regarding programs, so be sure to bring a bag to carry everything in, Idealist stated.
4. Arrive early
The old adage "The early bird gets the worm" certainly applies here. The earlier you arrive, the less likely it is that the venue will be overcrowded, meaning you'll be able to have longer and more productive conversations with the representatives in attendance. The Career Center at Illinois also explained that arriving early will give you time to review your game plan and the map of the event.
5. Project confidence
As with a job interview, it's necessary to come across as confident and personable. Greet the recruiter with a firm handshake and ensure that you maintain eye contact at all times. A great first impression will help ensure that the recruiter remembers you at a later date.
6. Prepare questions
The most important component of the graduate fair is the conversations that you'll be having with graduate school representatives. That's why it's so vital to prepare a list of questions prior to your arrival. The University of California Berkeley stated that it's a good idea to ask an array of questions that can provide you with a comprehensive overview of the school, program, funding options and campus life. Ensure that you don't leave a conversation without learning as much as you possibly can.
7. Have answers in mind
At a graduate school fair it's unlikely that you'll be the only one asking the questions. The representative will more than likely inquire as to why you wish to study for an advanced degree, what interests you about the program and so on. That's why, as the University of California Berkeley advised, it's an astute move to have a list of answers in mind. Your answers can be developed during the research stage. Review the literature associated with each school and program beforehand and ask yourself questions about the programs that may be asked when you arrive at the fair. Being able to provide a clear and concise account of why you are interested in a particular course of study will no doubt impress the representative with whom you converse.
8. Bring business cards
After each conversation it is important to provide the representative with the means to contact you. Idealist recommended bringing a stack of business cards. Not only is it an easier way for the recruiter to get in touch with you, it also looks more professional. It's also a good idea to get the recruiter's business card so that you can reach them if you need additional information.