Campus News

8 ways to prepare for a graduate school virtual fair

Department of Population and Public Health Sciences July 03, 2018
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Virtual graduate school fairs are a perfect place to talk with professors, students and staff from a variety of universities in one day, and without incurring travel expenses. So, how do you get the most out of these experiences? We’ve put together a few tips on how to make the most of graduate school virtual fairs.

1. Write down your questions

This is your opportunity to get all of your burning questions about each program — and graduate school in general — answered. Look at each program in which you are interested in advance, and write down the questions you would like to ask each school. Doing this will help you choose which sessions to attend, and ensure you come away from the fair feeling more informed.

2. Decide who you want to talk to

Many schools will have a variety of representatives participating throughout the day, including staff you might interact with often as a student, program directors and professors whose work may be notable in your area of interest. More interested in the student perspective? Make sure you know when the student question and answer sessions are happening. Check out the schedule and take note of people you are especially interested in chatting with.

3. Plan your day

Like an in-person fair or conference, many schools have different types of sessions happening throughout the course of the day. In order to make the most of it, you’ll want to create a schedule for yourself in advance — especially if you are hoping to catch certain program directors, staff members or student Q&A sessions. Refer to your list of questions when deciding which sessions to attend from each school, as it’s best to stay on-topic out of respect to other prospective students.

4. Write your elevator pitch

Whether or not you have been accepted to or plan to attend a program, it is always a good idea to introduce yourself. It won’t affect your chances of being accepted; however, public health work relies heavily on professional connections, and even a virtual fair can be an opportunity for some light networking. A best practice for introducing yourself in a question and answer session is to keep it short and sweet (1-2 sentences), and follow up with a question. Write down what you would like to say in advance, and keep it handy for when you enter new sessions.

5. Don’t be shy about participating

It’s easy to take an observer stance online, however you’ll get the most out of the virtual fair (and any program you attend) if you take every opportunity you can to be an active participant.

6. Practice chat room etiquette

While you want to be an active participant, you also want to practice good online etiquette. This includes being cognizant of others in the room that may have questions, taking a quick scroll through the chat to be sure your question hasn’t already been answered (if so, you can direct your question as a follow-up, or let the program representatives know you appreciate learning that information), and conducting yourself in a professional manner. You may even want to plan your outfit. Yes, it’s the internet. No, you likely won’t be on camera. However, dressing as if you are going to leave your living room changes the way you present yourself, even virtually.
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7. Take notes

Make sure you remember the answers to all those questions you asked! This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked — especially if you attend sessions with multiple schools, so take written notes to avoid getting mixed up later.

8. Follow up

Whether or not you attend a program, keep note of who you talked with, and follow up with a quick thank you. Public health work is most often a team effort, and you never know who you may end up working with in the future. Connections can be made anywhere if you make an effort to keep in touch with those you meet.
Follow these easy tips, and you are sure to come away from any virtual fair with valuable information, and perhaps even a connection or two for the future.
Meet us during the This Is Public Health Virtual Fair on July 11, 2018! 
— by Carolyn Barnes