Thoughts About a Monster College Convention

I spent most of last week in Seattle attending the annual convention of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. About 5,500 high school counselors and college admission officers poured into the city’s convention center for the mega event.

I rented a booth at the convention in hopes of spreading the word about my new book, The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price. Since I was a newbie exhibitor, I was surprised when I learned that the booth didn’t include a table, chairs or even a piece of carpet. Those were extra.

Here are some of my random thoughts about the adventure:

Most humbling experience:

My little booth was pushed up against a distant wall, which was far away from the big boys. My 10-x-10 foot space, which was decorated with an amazing banner that a friend made me, was quite modest compared to the convention real estate that was commandeered by the major players like the College Board and the Princeton Review, as well as the enrollment management firms. The EM guys wore expensive business suits and fancy watches and every time I walked by on my way to the bathroom, they looked to be engaged in very serious conversations. (I can’t get into what enrollment management executives do in this post, but let’s just say that they haven’t been a positive development for higher ed.)

Most surprising experience:

A senior writer and an editor at U.S. News & World Report wandered over to the booth and asked me if I’d be interested in writing some college stories for the magazine. I said sure I’d be glad to consider contributing, but I told them that they might change their minds after they read the chapter in The College Solution on their popular rankings. (Hint: I’m not a fan.)

Most frustrating experience:

I bet there were more than 100 educational sessions at the convention, but I missed all of them because I was determined to greet as many people who walked past my booth as possible. (I wanted to sell enough books to at least pay for the carpet rental!) I ordered all the MP3 discs and I will be listening to many of them when I walk my golden retriever in the coming weeks. On the blog, I’ll try to pass along what I find most helpful.

Most rewarding:

I had quite a few high school counselors, who had already read The College Solution, tell me how much they’ve enjoyed the book. Curiously enough, some of my most enthusiastic readers came from places as far away as Jamaica and Singapore. I have no idea how they even found the book, but I’m glad they did.

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One Response to Thoughts About a Monster College Convention

  1. Andrew September 29, 2008 at 7:46 pm #

    I wish I would have known that you were at NACAC, as I would have stopped by your booth. I am an Assistant Director of Admission at Whittier College, and love hearing different takes on higher education and the college application process. I am also originally from San Diego and would love to pick your brain sometime if you are free. My dad is a big fan of your book, and is working with my brother, a junior in high school, on the process as we speak. Thanks.

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