At some point in your academic career, you will most likely have the opportunity to attend a graduate school and career fair. And even though that may seem a bit overwhelming or intimidating, remember that it is just that — a great opportunity for you to network and learn about companies, positions and programs you may be interested in.
That being said, you’ll want to prepare ahead of time. Having a game plan for tackling the event will allow you to get the most out of your experience. So we’ve talked to our Director of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment, Dan Capogna, to come up with a few things that’ll help you have a successful experience.
Do Your Research.
There are going to be a lot of companies with a wide range of positions and programs attending your career fair. Your school can probably provide you with a list of companies who have registered to attend. Take time to go through it and see which companies and programs stick out to you. Narrow your list to a handful of companies and do some more research. Know what their company does, where they’re located, what graduate programs they offer, etc.
Being prepared and having some background information beforehand will allow you to make the most of your one-on-one time with a company’s representative at the career fair. Take notes, preferably typed, to take with you to the fair. That way you’ll be able to quickly refresh your memory while you’re in line. Don’t try to memorize everything about every company — your time is better spent preparing what you’re going to say and compiling a list of questions you might have for those companies you’re interested in.
This is where being familiar with the company comes in to play. You’ll be able to have much more productive conversations if you have more focused and specific questions ready to ask. Questions like “does your university have a grad program for civil engineering,” or “can you tell me about what your company does?” are simple questions you can easily find the answer to online. These types of questions not only waste the limited time you have with representatives, but can also make you look unprepared or disinterested. Try to ask questions you can’t find answers to on a company’s website.
Dan has a decade of experience as a recruiter attending grad school and career fairs. He says that people are often nervous to talk to recruiters. “We’re here to help you, even if you decide our program isn’t right for you,” he says. “At the end of the day, our goal is for you to leave our table with more knowledge that’ll help you take the next step in achieving your career or educational goals, whatever that may be.”
After the career fair is over, don’t be afraid to reach out to the people you’ve met if you think of any other questions. Most of these representatives have a good deal of industry knowledge, and even if they can’t give you the exact answer you’re looking for, chances are they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. And if you have any really helpful encounters, you can always send a follow up email just to say thank you, even if you don’t have any questions. You never know who you may work or interview with in the future. It is never a bad idea to follow up with a quick thank you for a person’s time and help.
Fill Out the Inquiry Card!
If you think you might be interested in a career or educational opportunity, make sure to leave your name and contact information with the company or grad school. Sometimes students are hesitant to do this because they don’t want to get spammed with emails. If that’s the case, create a separate email. Then, you can check that account and receive updates when you want them without cluttering your personal or work email. Companies send out a lot of really helpful information, like program descriptions and application requirements, fee waivers, updated job listings and important dates and deadlines. Take advantage of these perks and free reminders!
Don’t Limit Yourself.
“Probably the most important advice I can give someone is to not limit yourself,” Dan says. “So many times I’ll have students come up to me with a maximum tuition price in mind or wanting a strictly online program. The thing is, most schools have scholarships whose information is only available to students after they apply.” Similarly, sometimes the best move for your career is to relocate for a few years instead of completing a grad program online.
The point is, there are a lot of factors to consider when evaluating a program’s potential value that students often overlook, like whether the school has a strong alumni base and career-readiness program, or whether they have faculty well-versed in industry who are working on research that they’re interested in. Dan says, “make sure to explore all of your options, and more importantly, to be open to your different options.”
Dan Capogna is the Director of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment at Clarkson’s Capital Region Campus, located in Schenectady, NY. He has been part of the Clarkson family for the past three years and has more than a decade of experience in higher education.
Our team of graduate admissions counselors are here to answer your questions about Clarkson’s graduate programs and admissions process. Contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (518) 631-9831.