5 Observations from a College Recruiter

Life on the road can be fun (and exhausting) for a college recruiter.

My goal is to share the good word about the Institute of Aviation at Parkland College. Building a following takes time, and travel this fall has sent me in every direction in Illinois, and from Wisconsin and Missouri to Ohio and Indiana to Kentucky and back. I’ve put miles on my vehicle, passing the time singing to every Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift song I hear (yes, I admit I sing along, but it’s not my fault; they write catchy tunes).

I’ve noticed something interesting during these travels: While the venues change from day to day, the faces and questions remain similar. Wherever the road takes me, regardless of the state, I’ve come across homogeneity in prospective students and their families.

Based on my observations of these similarities, I’ll share five tips with you about college recruitment fairs (just in case you plan to attend one any time soon).

Observation 1: College fairs are a family affair

Dad with student, Mom picking up materials, grandparents along for the ride, and an older sibling explaining how it works: Let’s face it, college is a huge decision, and having the support of family plays an important role in a student’s college choice. I’ve seen overwhelming support from family members as they ask their student, “what do you want to do?” Refreshing, in my eyes.

Observation 2: Don’t be afraid

Without the push of family or friends, many students are afraid to talk to a recruiter. We don’t bite (well, at least not students)! Your first step to becoming independent is being able to speak for yourself, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. In fact, college will be a series of these types of interactions. Remember, I’m there to help you complete the picture you have painted in your mind about a school or program. I am real-life person standing in front of you—please come talk to me!

Observation 3: Do your homework

It’s not every day that you have 40, 50, or 300 schools all in one place and at your fingertips! Before accepting this great opportunity, then, you need to do a little homework. If your passion is aviation, then make sure you talk to all the aviation programs that are present. Prepare some standard questions you can readily ask each of them. This will give you a baseline for comparing programs and will help you make the most of your time while at the fair.

Observation 4: Don’t get stuck on the names

Students are stuck on the popularity of names. For example, they will spend several minutes waiting to talk to an institution’s rep just because they know them by name, even though they may have little to no interest attending in the school as a whole. “But it’s the flagship!” you might reply. Perhaps, but that is still no reason to attend a particular school; there has to be more intrinsic value for you than that.

Observation 5: Explore where you can thrive

I firmly believe you should throw rankings and popularity of names out the window and explore schools that will allow you to thrive not just as a student, but also as an individual. College is about coming into your own and becoming the best you can be. Find the school that can challenge you, allow you to be you, and reward you for your efforts. It is hard to describe, but there is a level of comfort you should feel when you step onto a campus or inside a department. School rankings can’t get you your dream career; while they may crack open a door for you, only YOU can walk through that door. Opportunity is everywhere, so find a place where you can thrive.

[Wendy Evans is the recruiter for Parkland’s Institute of Aviation.]

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