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Career Development Center University of Illinois Springfield

Graduate School Fairs

Graduate School Fairs present excellent opportunities:

  • To connect with important contacts
  • To explore and learn about graduate schools
  • To receive priceless graduate school advice from recruiting professionals
Picture of resumes

What to Expect

When you attend grad school fairs be well prepared, professional, interactive, and inquisitive. Come mentally and emotionally ready to take the best and worst possible results, which will keep you in a realistic, but optimistic, state of mind. Graduate school fairs vary: different layouts, themes, atmospheres, and expectations. Some graduate school fairs are busier than others.

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What to Do Before

If you want to go to a successful and worthwhile fair, it is important for you to be prepared. This will also be a benefit to the recruiters. Here are some points to consider that will help you prepare:

  • Research the fair, recruiters, expected participants, and participation requirements. If you are more informed, then your experience might be more productive. Check the fair organizers’ website for a list of the recruiters participating and the agenda of the fair.
  • Create a list of the graduate schools that interest you the most. Research them extensively, but remain open to other schools that you might find.
  • Draw up a “Graduate School Action Plan” with objectives you plan and want to fulfill. When you write down your goals you are more likely to accomplish them.
  • Think of questions to ask and answer. Prepare a list of specific questions for each graduate school that you want to be addressed. The recruiters might have questions for you as well, and therefore, rehearse your responses to potential questions as much as is needed for you to be confidently ready.
  • Compose, rehearse, and gain command of a 30-60 second “elevator pitch” that includes your name, goals, education, experiences, strengths, and interests. Compliment your pitch with a firm handshake and a curriculum vitae as well as a resume.
  • Draft between 10-25 highly developed curriculum vitae or resumes. Have your CV’s and/or resumes extensively critiqued and make certain that they have no errors and are well written. Remember what you have written on your CV or resume in case recruiters ask questions about either of them.
  • Compile your career portfolio with resumes, pens, paper, transcripts, and a list of references in case a recruiter asks for such information.
  • Be early to the fair! The employers will be more tired as the fair goes later. If you want a recruiter to remember you, arrive 10 or 15 minutes before the fair begins and be prepared for making an enduring first impression!
  • Wear professional attire! Make certain that you are well-groomed and dressed in business attire.

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What to Do During

Your time at a graduate school fair can be successful if you are professional, confident, optimistic, and persistent. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Introduce yourself. Telling the recruiters your name is of the utmost importance for your introduction. Enthusiasm and sincerity can endear you to recruiters!
  • Manage your time. Be certain that you are devoting enough time to meeting with your target schools so that you effectively market yourself.
  • Ask productive, relevant and individualized questions. Be considerate of the recruiter’s energy and time, but be curious to demonstrate that you have researched the school and that you are concerned with your future.
  • Obtain the recruiter’s information. Make certain that you know the recruiter’s name, business card, literature, and the next step of communication. Remember to thank the recruiter by name.

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What to Do After

The follow-up of a graduate school fair in many instances can give attendees the edge over their competition. Always be certain that:

  • You send the recruiters with whom you spoke thank-you letters within one week. Send them thank-you letters helps the employer to remember you, reinforcing the professional relationship you two have founded.
  • You follow-up with the recruiter’s requests and be aligned with his or her wishes of the next communication step.

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Find a Graduate Fair

Some graduate fairs are open to many schools and programs, while others are geared towards a specific kind of school, such as medical school or law school. There are many website directories of career fairs by region, state, occupation, and industry.

Unable to Attend a Graduate School Fair or Want to Participate from a Distance? Contact the Career Development Center to further discuss your “Graduate School Fair Plan” and to develop a strategy to market yourself from a distance.

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Tools for Graduate School Fairs

Hands On Resource
Visual Tool Auditory tool

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Additional Resources

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