Themed Micro College Fairs Offered Personalized Look at Higher Education Options

Blair’s annual College Fair, held each spring in Hardwick Hall’s field house, has traditionally been a wonderful opportunity for juniors and sophomores to learn about a wide variety of colleges and universities and meet admission representatives. This year, mindful of health-and-safety protocols, Blair’s college counseling office took this large-group event in the opposite direction and created eight virtual Micro College Fairs, each a unique, themed experience designed to introduce students to higher education options in a very personalized—and, therefore, a very Blair—fashion.

Dean of College Counseling Niki Applebaum ’01 explained that the Micro College Fairs centered on specific topics, ranging from “Studying Business” and “Studying the Liberal Arts” to “Studying at an Urban University” and “Studying at a Private Research University.” Each fair featured six colleges or universities—including a well-known “anchor” school—with five schools represented by admission officers and one represented by a Blair alumnus or alumna who shared his or her student experience.

“We highlighted schools focused on one central tenant at each Micro College Fair, drawing students in with at least one familiar college or university,” Ms. Applebaum said. “At the same time, we carefully cultivated each event to offer variety along other lines, exposing students to different institutions, ranges of admit rates and varied educational models. The result was eight thoughtfully designed replications of the very best outcomes a student might achieve by traversing a gym full of schools.”

The Micro College Fairs proved popular with college admission officers and alumni, including Anya Parauda ’15, a 2019 graduate of Colby College who attended the event focused on studying liberal arts. She spoke to students about the similarities and differences between Blair and Colby, drawing on her own deep knowledge of the Blair community to connect with students. “I offered my perspective on why I chose Colby, which included my interest in studying abroad, the school's location, and financial aid,” she said. “I enjoyed the conversational aspect of the Micro Fair and hearing what students are considering in the college process. I'm not an admissions fellow for Colby, but I'm happy to share my own experience in hopes of helping Blair students make a more informed, and ideally less stressful, decision.”

Blair’s 10th- and 11th-graders, many of whom attended several of the half-hour long events, also enjoyed the Micro College Fairs. Hope Dragonetti ’22’s favorite session of the four she attended was “Studying at an Urban University” because it gave her insight into the opportunities available at different city schools. “I got a good ‘first impression’ of some schools I’d like to learn more about,” she said, noting that the University of Miami admission officer’s description of business internships in the heart of Miami piqued her interest. “These Micro College Fairs were extremely organized and well-planned. It was great to hear short snippets from each school and jump between calls to ask questions!”

“I’m proud of the college counseling team for all the work they put into developing the Micro College Fairs,” Ms. Applebaum said, expressing thanks to Associate Deans of College Counseling Joe Mantegna and Kevin Parsons, college counselor Caroline Wilson and administrative assistant Rachel Byrne. “In a year when many of our peer schools outsourced their college fairs to third-party vendors, we were able to create something completely unique and especially meaningful to Blair students.”

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The all-school read provides the entire Blair community, from students to faculty and staff, an opportunity to engage with a single work of literature. The tradition, started in 2017, offers students the chance to interact with up-and-coming authors and thinkers, and it allows the entire community to have a collective conversation about important issues.

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