In a matter of days, many of us will be gathered in San Francisco for the CS Music Convention & Competition. I will be there wearing two hats: One hat is that of a presenter (Saturday and Sunday), and the other hat is that of an exhibitor.
The College Expo Recruiting Fair takes place on both Saturday and Sunday (May 27 and 28) from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. in the Yerba Buena Ballroom Salon 9. Over 55 schools and organizations will be at tables in the Exhibitor Hall during these times.
With so much going on at the Convention, I am writing this article to provide some information on what the Exhibitor Hall is all about, and some tips on how to maximize what you get out of your time there.
Schools participate in college fairs in order to meet prospective students. We bring brochures and booklets, and come ready to talk about our schools, programs, and faculty. (We also bring swag, which is irrelevant to the quality of the institution, but still a fun part of an exhibitor hall!) The college fair is a sort of marketplace. Instead of sitting for hours on end alone reading websites, you can wander through the fair and interact face-to-face with people who work at the institutions and know them well. Here are some tips to help you get value out of your visit(s) to the exhibitor hall.
- Take a moment before the convention to scan the list of exhibitors (found in a dropdown on the convention schedule webpage). Are there schools listed that you know? That you don’t know? Are there schools where you were thinking of applying, but aren’t sure that they can give you the training that you are seeking?
- Reflect on your career goals. If you are at the convention, that implies you have an interest in voice, but does that mean studying opera? Studying musical theatre? Are you interested in music from a more academic side—music theory, perhaps, or music history? Do you want to major in a non-music area but still participate in music in some way?
- Having seen the list of exhibitors and reflected on your goals, you can enter the exhibitor hall primed to have conversations with the people behind the tables. Don’t limit yourself to schools that you know, and don’t assume that you know everything about the more familiar schools. Be open.
I spoke with some of my colleagues and asked them what questions they feel are useful and what questions are not so productive when you are interacting with a school representative at a college fair. Here are some of their answers:
- The first question to ask a college rep should not be “Can I get a scholarship?” I actually explain this in my presentations, but suffice to say now that a school cannot give you a scholarship if you do not apply to the school. So the real first question should be…
- “What is the application process to your school?” You need to know about the timeline, whether an audition is required, what repertoire is required, etc. All of this information will be on the school’s website, but the exhibitor hall is your opportunity to ask these questions of a real, live person.
- Don’t ask, “Is your school good?” (Yes, we have had that question asked!) School reps are enthusiastic about their schools. That’s why they represent them. The real question is whether the school is good for you—and that depends on the reflection you have done about what your career goals are.
- Ask about what really matters to you. For example, if you want to be a performance major, what performance opportunities does the school offer? If you want to major in music education, will you be certified at the end of your course of study? If you do not want to major in music, does the school offer the major that you want, and can you participate in music even if that is not your major?
- Schools weigh academics and artistic talent differently. Universities and colleges typically put more weight on your academic record than conservatories do. Be honest with yourself about your academic record, and talk to the reps about their schools’ criteria and standards.
- If a faculty member is present at the school’s table, take the opportunity to introduce yourself. Attend their master class, if they are giving one. Seeing the faculty member teach and talking to them in the more casual setting of the exhibitor hall can give you a better sense of the school, and even add a potential teacher to your list.
Conventions are concentrated events that pack a lot into a short amount of time. Take advantage of the opportunity to speak with people in order to learn about them and their schools. It may take you a while after the convention ends to process everything that you learned, but that’s okay—it’s good to feel as if you’ve stuffed your brain. You never know when something you learned at the convention will fall into place and spur you forward.
And a parting thought—My presentation will be at 11:15am on both Saturday and Sunday. The content will be the same both times, covering admissions and application information, audition tips, and lots of time for questions. I look forward to seeing you soon!