Forums & Fairs: Win, lose or draw?

Admissions Forums and Admissions Fairs matter. I would argue that as attendance at these events has waned steadily in the past 12 years, they now matter more than ever for the simple reason you can make a last impression. Still, there are enough people at each law school’s table where you will have to do it the right way. Here is how:

1. First impressions matter

Research on first impressions in a business context shows that we are not forming a single first impression but rather two. One, we are seeking to discern if the person we are meeting is trustworthy and what it is they want from us. So smile! Be friendly. Shake their hand with confidence. Dress like a professional. All of this sounds obvious (and I HATE blogging about the obvious), but just know it is incredibly important if you want to be remembered in a positive light.

Two, we are trying to answer the question, “How capable and confident are they?” Here is a trick in respect to a Fair or Forum. If you are waiting in a line to speak to an admissions dean or officer you will start to feel LESS capable and LESS confident as time drags on. I have seen it hundreds of times — there is this look that applicants start to have when the more they wait that says “I feel too much like a cattle in a herd and maybe I should sneak off.” So, if you are targeting a specific school to make a good impression just wait until that admissions representative has some down time. Approach them then, with a cool confidence that you should have. This, after all, is a buyers market. They need you!

80-90% of first impressions factor around these two areas, says research. Leave the flashy outfit and slicked back hair behind and focus on this and you will be memorable.

2. Do your homework on the school

I don’ t mean know where they are ranked. In fact, LEAVE YOUR USNWR at home — trust me you do not want to be that person known for carrying around the rankings. But, if you can talk to an admissions representative about a particular program area, faculty member, etc they will light up. They are sick of answering questions about LSAT medians and scholarships and will love you for digging deeper.

3. Take notes or be an active listener

Either one stands out. Show that you are listening by asking (a few) response questions to their pitch. Or simply take (a few) notes. 95% percent of the people who visit their table will do neither. Better yet, ask them a question about themselves. Why? No one else will and this will definitely make you memorable. (Just don’t ask them to buy a used watch, which is a true story that happened to me in 2000 at the NYC Forum.)

4. Ask for a card and make sure you follow-up

Again, very few do either. Guess what, your follow-up will highly likely go in your file. Yield protect data is king if you are on the bubble, and this is just that. Who knows, a simple “Great to meet you and learn more about your school – you really stood out at the __ Forum” might just secure you an admit and/or extra $$$$.

5. If it is a student representative…

This is a great time to ask about the culture of the school. Dig in — you will get more of an unfiltered message although keep in mind that in admissions we do not send out student representatives who are Eeyores towards our schools. Also know that they will likely have the business cards of someone in the admissions office, so ask! You can still send a valuable follow-up.

Enjoy the event!