Students, schools turn to virtual college fairs

Wartburg College plans to participate in its third CollegeWeekLive fair in November, something that allows the college to reach more students.

“It is relatively inexpensive and allows us to reach a more global audience then we can through traditional methods, like high school visits and regional college fairs,” said Todd Coleman, assistant vice president for admissions. “We [have] received great leads from the online fair and have a good number of prospects, parents, and high school counselors who visit our virtual booth for more information. The live student chat that we have done each year has really been a big winner for us, and our student [representative] never has enough time to answer all of the questions.”

Coleman said while the school’s participation in the virtual fairs is done in addition to attending local college fairs, it exposes them to students they normally would be able to reach.

“What this allows us to do is reach audiences that would normally cost us several thousand dollars to reach between the college fairs costs and travel expenses,” he said.

Rosenbloom said his company surveyed parents, students, guidance counselors, and admissions officers at traditional college fairs and learned they can present some problems.

Even if students and parents are able to speak one on one with a college’s representative, there are still some factors that could keep them from asking the questions they really want to ask.

“Students might not want to get specific about their GPA or SAT or ACT score if ten of their friends are standing nearby. And parents might not want to ask about financial aid in front of other parents,” he said.

When CollegeWeekLive launched in beta version in 2007, the service had 15,000 students and 80 schools participate in its two-day fall fair. The virtual fair is free to students and parents. This year, the service will have about 250 schools participate, with the fair lasting four days for this first time this fall.

The company also has expanded from offering only one fair a semester to offering regional fairs, as well as events that focus on test preparation and financial aid and a number of virtual open houses.

Mary A.C. Fallon, senior director of communications for, one of CollegeWeekLive’s newest sponsors, said many colleges are attracted to the fair because of the large number of students they can reach.

“No doubt the reach this event gives colleges is a big attraction, because most college fairs are much smaller events in school cafeterias and gyms–and the numbers virtual college fairs attract could fill a stadium,” she said. “Given the anxiety students and parents have about rising college costs, shrinking [financial] aid budgets, and the desire to avoid a heavy debt burden, being able to talk online to students and parents live during this virtual college fair is a great opportunity to make a personal connection.”

Other virtual college fairs include one hosted by radio host Tom Joyner, which focuses on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Green College Tour.



Tom Joyner Virtual College Fair

Green College Tour