It’s just days away and probably not what you’re thinking about right now, but you should be. The citywide high school fair, the biggest high school admissions event of its kind in NYC (and probably the country), is less than 2 weeks away at Brooklyn Tech (the only school big enough to handle it).
Despite what you may have heard, if you are a middle school family – especially 7th or 8th grade – you simply must attend this event. Yes, it’s chaotic, and yes, it’s huge, but it can also be tremendously valuable for those who are prepared. It’s the only event of its kind where you can get so much information in one place. It’s not a day at the beach, but don’t squander the opportunity.
Here are my Top 5 Tips on how to get the most out of the fair, based on my extensive experience at several of them:
1. Do your homework ahead of time and don’t wing it. Many of the horror stories you will hear are from families who don’t prepare and then show up and wing it. The fact that you are reading this right now gives you an edge already. You and your child (notice I say your child should attend with you!) should come prepared with a list of schools you want to speak with – at least 15-20 if not more. The last thing you want to do is to show up, thinking you will “see as many schools as you can.” Bad strategy, and you will leave feeling frustrated.
Also, come with a list of questions for the schools and students you’ll meet with – and not just information you can get from the high school directory. Anyone can do that. You want to speak with teachers and students (you’ll be surprised what comes out of their mouths), ask them about the school culture, ask about their teaching philosophy and style, ask about their challenges, ask why someone would want to attend their school, etc. Challenge them, that’s why they are there.
2. Know what to expect. There are tens of thousands of people there over the course of 2 days, so don’t be surprised by crowds and noise. It is the way it is, but that does not mean you can’t benefit from this event. Come knowing that, have a plan and you’ll be fine. Block off the entire day so you’re not stressed out about the time you have to spend there. And don’t show up in the last hour expecting to accomplish much. Plan ahead of time and it will be worth it.
3. If you are interested in the specialized high schools (which you probably are), give yourself at least a couple of hours to visit those schools. This is the ONLY event where all these schools are in one place. And if you are patient, you can speak with them face to face, so take advantage of it. Again, don’t be surprised by lots of people and potentially an overheated gym. At the same time, don’t spend all your time with the specialized high schools – you won’t get a special “edge” and you won’t benefit from the hundreds of other schools in attendance.
4. Go to the workshops. There is a lot of valuable information given during the workshops and they are right there in the building, so why miss out? The process is overwhelming enough as it is, so you may as well learn a little bit more.
5. Sign in with the schools. Remember, many of the schools there will give priority to applicants that have signed in at an event like this, so don’t miss that opportunity. It is one of the few ways in the admissions process where you have control over who gets priority over whom.
Like so much of the high school admissions process, preparation and teamwork is critical. Follow these steps and you will absolutely benefit much more from this event.