For overworked guidance counselors, students seeking detailed and relevant information about colleges, and parents looking for advice on issues such as financial aid and standardized tests, virtual college fairs can help.
Guidance counselors in particular could use a little help. Despite the American School Counselor Association’s recommendation of a 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio, the national average for 2006-2007 was 475:1—and that was before the recession forced many districts to cut counselor positions or leave vacancies unfilled.
With CollegeWeekLive and EducationXpo, the two big players in the field, counselors have a one-stop shop to recommend to students and parents, and one that has strong appeal to today’s tech-savvy teens. Both fairs take place on specific dates and are set up initially to simulate a real college fair. The advantages of the virtual experience, however, are quickly apparent:
? Shy students can initiate an online chat rather than approaching a stranger directly.
? Students can have access to multiple representatives from the same school. These reps, who can include students as well as admissions personnel, can participate from wherever they are. With College WeekLive, students can even view a live video presentation from a college student’s dorm room and can type questions for that college student to answer.
? Rather than traveling to a location that may or may not be close by, students can visit a virtual fair from their own homes.
? Students don’t have to navigate through a large, busy hall. “Fairs are so crowded,” says Angie Wilcox, guidance counselor at Hudson High School, about 40 miles west of Boston. “It’s hard to talk to reps. With CollegeWeekLive there are no waits in line, no standing around.”
? Presentations from experts in the field are available on topics such as paying for college and writing a college essay. College
WeekLive’s presentations are all offered live, during which time viewers can type questions that a moderator will sort through for the presenter to answer. Both CollegeWeekLive and EducationXpo offer access to archived presentations as well.
? Students can download PDFs of whatever publications colleges choose to make available. At the end of the fair, they aren’t inundated with paper.
There is no cost to students, parents or guidance counselors for either fair.