As college fair season kicks into high gear, a growing number of students, parents, and colleges will be turning to virtual college fairs as a way to save money and increase exposure.
Students today are comfortable communicating online, giving them access to information and resources that otherwise might be unavailable to them. And for campus officials, virtual college fairs offer a way to reach a potentially larger number of students without adding travel costs.
Shannon Meairs, co-founder and chief executive officer of University Drive, a college admission consulting company, said when students are trying to decide where to begin in their search for a college, the first thing she tells them is to go online.
“Ideally, I would like a student to have a personal interaction with a college, but if a student is unable to visit the campus, a virtual college fair is the prime opportunity for students to connect with college reps,” she said.
Meairs said traditional college fairs are ideal because they leverage face-to-face contact, but virtual college fairs give students access to hundreds of universities without leaving the comfort of their home.
Not everyone sees virtual college fairs as a lesser alternative to traditional, face-to-face venues; some think they provide an even better experience for students.
Robert Rosenbloom, founder and chief executive officer of Platform Q, the company that produces CollegeWeekLive, said virtual fairs give students and parents a better chance at getting one-on-one time with higher-education officials.
“The value we bring is that we’re connecting the students with admissions officers, financial aid personnel, or current students. They connect live, either through text but usually through video chat,” he said.
“If you look at what happens at physical college fairs, they’re usually crowded, they send one representative who might not even be an admissions officer, and a student can ask maybe one question.”