The college fair is coming to Charlotte, and it’s free


Attending your local college fair is a great way for students and parents to dip their toes into the waters of college exploration.

Charlotte’s fair is Sunday, March 18 from noon to 4 p.m. at The Park Expo and Conference Center, 2500 E. Independence Blvd.

It’s crazy loud, crazy crowded and, yes, a little intimidating. But it’s a harmless first exposure that often yields great results.

College fairs are an information-gathering bonanza. For students who haven’t really figured out that high school grades count a lot, encouraging them to have a brief, one-on-one conversation with an admissions representative from the college of their dreams does wonders.

Feedback from families has been very positive. The reality that college is just a few short years away sinks in, and formerly lackadaisical students “get it,” turning themselves into more dedicated students because they now have a goal in sight. 

Homework to do before the college fair

  • Find out which colleges will be attending ( As of today, 198 colleges and universities are listed for the Charlotte fair. Almost all schools in North Carolina and South Carolina are planning on being there, as well as a wide range of selective colleges including Vanderbilt, Villanova and the University of Miami to a slew of schools you’ve probably never heard of.
  • Make a list of the ones you want to visit. If the website provides a booth location map, scope out your most expeditious route.
  • Print out your badge with a barcode. This will make stopping at a variety of colleges much simpler and faster. They will be able to scan your badge and automatically put you on their email and regular mail distribution lists.
  • Create a list of questions that are specific to your needs and wants, i.e., don’t ask about their SAT test scores when you can find that out on their website or in a college guidebook. Instead, ask something like, “I’m thinking of majoring in business, but I’d like to study abroad. Where will I be able to go abroad and still continue taking business courses that will count toward my major?”

 What to do while you’re there

  • Introduce yourself when possible to the admissions representative. Request business cards so you can follow-up.
  • Ask your question(s) and come prepared to take notes on each college’s responses.
  • Divide and conquer. If your list of colleges is very long, you may be best served by splitting up and stopping at booths independently. Some booths will have very long lines and run out of brochures and business cards, so plan your time strategically.
  • Attend any of the workshops on the college search process, financial aid, test prep, etc. These sessions are good, and it’s a great excuse to sit down.
  • Be adventurous and go beyond the “usual suspects.” Make it your mission to find one college that you’ve never heard of and learn something about it.
  • Don’t hog the admissions representative, especially if there is a long line. Ask your question, collect your literature, say thank you and move on.

Charlotte National College Fair

WHEN: Sunday, March 18, noon to 4 p.m.

WHERE: The Park Expo and Conference Center, Independence Hall, 800 Briar Creek Road, Charlotte


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: