‘Tis the season of the pre-health fair.
Pre-health fairs are a popular way for prospective students to have one on one contact with a wide variety of health-related graduate schools, deans of admission, admission officers, financial aid officers, faculty, and staff. Instead of traveling to multiple campuses or making numerous phone calls or writing emails you can speak to many programs all in one shot.
Pre-health fairs are a great opportunity and resource for freshman and sophomore undergraduate students who are trying to get the lay of the land and make decisions about what type of graduate program they want to pursue.
For juniors and seniors, it is an opportunity to ask specific questions to evaluate their own candidacy and investigate unique or new programs. Most of these fairs may have additional lectures and panel discussions on application strategies and logistics.
When you first enter the room full of tables and giveaways it can become overwhelming. Sometimes the whole event just ends up being about getting to the table with the best giveaway – then when you get home you find you have lots of pens, stuffed microbes, and keychains but no additional knowledge about the programs you like. Don’t let the toys sway you! You usually have a limited amount of time and you want to make the most of it.
To make the most of a pre-health fair you need to strategize.
- Review in advance what schools will be there and get a map of the room outlining where each of their tables will be located. Most conferences will provide a map a few days to a few weeks ahead of time. Strategize which tables you will visit based on your interests and what questions you might have about particular programs.
- Look up the programs ahead of time. Be familiar with the information that is already available on their websites. The people at the tables are representatives from the admissions office and admissions committees. You do not want to monopolize their time by asking questions about the readily available information. On that note, you don’t want to monopolize their time at all. There are often hundreds if not thousands of participants at some of these fairs and you should prepare some specific, quick questions you want to ask in advance. If you find you have been talking for more than 10 minutes or the representative seems to be staring off into space or scanning the room, or there is a line of people behind you, you’ve overstayed your welcome. If you still need more elaboration you can always take a business card and follow up by email with specific personal questions.
- Make your list of questions you will ask the representatives at pre-health fairs. This is a good time to get detailed information about any unique or new programs the school might be offering, specific examples of their curricula, and what they look for in candidates. For example, many schools are now offering new or innovative primary care tracks or 3-year programs and this is a great time for them to tell you more about them. You can also use the opportunity to ask about how to approach a particular mishap you might have in your application – may be a prerequisite you did not meet or a unique feature of your application. Don’t forget to take notes, you may think you will remember, but I guarantee that after a full day of questions and answers, you may not.
- Be professional. Although you may feel like a pre-health fair is a fairly anonymous forum and the representatives will not remember you, this is not the time to act unprofessional. You’d be amazed at what people DO remember, and they will almost always remember unprofessional behavior. Dress neatly or in casual business attire. Do not be argumentative. Don’t be negative or cynical. Don’t criticize their program or other programs. The cost for you to travel to each of these schools would be prohibitive and they have come to you. Remember to be kind, friendly, and respectful.
- Engage. Don’t just grab the handouts and run. Engage and learn. If you really want that spinal cord keychain or stuffed microbe, skip the fair, I have several I can send you.
If you do skip the pre-health fair and want to speak to someone who has attended many pre-health fairs feel free to contact one of our admissions experts for advice, or visit us at one of our upcoming exhibit tables at NEAAHHP in Niagara, NY on June 7th, 2023, or at MAPPDCON on October 6-8th in Baltimore, MD.
Upcoming virtual fairs include:
May 10, 2023, 9a-9p EST
July 15, 2023, 9a-9p EST
AACOM (The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine) Virtual Fairs
Panel discussions with current medical students, faculty, and staff. Each college of osteopathic medicine will also have break-out rooms where applicants can speak with Admissions staff. Keep in mind that many osteopathic medical colleges host their own open houses as well. AACOM keeps a calendar on its website.
August 23rd, 2023 12-6pm ET
January 24th, 2024 12-6pm ET
AAMC Virtual Medical School Fairs typically happen in the Spring and Fall. The AAMC virtual fair used to be a one-day event and is now a two-day event. Day one there are various lectures and presentations. On day two you can meet with individual schools. This year’s fair was on March 28th-29th, 2023. Since you missed this year’s fair you can find the presentation sessions from April 2022 on YOUTube here.