Speed recruiting at the Ontario Universities’ Fair

Imagine three full days of non-stop talking, laughing and networking with thousands of high-school students and parents from near and far. Space is at a premium and the noise level at a maximum, but the Ontario Universities’ Fair (OUF) experience is exhilarating and provides York with a singular opportunity to connect with prospective students.

This year, more than 116,000 visitors made their way to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from Sept. 25 to 27 for the OUF, the annual fall event for students and their parents looking to explore prospective universities and possible programs of study, and to ask pertinent questions. The OUF is the second-largest trade show in Toronto and the largest educational trade show in North America. Its growth year over year can be seen in the increasing expansion of the trade show footprint to accommodate the students, parents and teachers researching postsecondary education.

Left: There were often as many parents in the York booth at the Ontario Universities’ Fair as students

York’s booth was visited by thousands of students, gauged by the more than 30,000 Undergraduate Admissions Handbooks handed out over the three days. York stood out among the 21 Ontario universities represented at the fair, with its vibrant, contemporary booth reflecting the 50th anniversary celebrations and featuring multimedia “trees”, bold, illuminated signs highlighting handbook cover graphics to designate the Admissions and Faculty areas, and a red neon “halo” around the entire booth (to grab attention from a distance).

The booth featured more than 500 student, professor, Faculty and services staff volunteers who greeted students and families – the largest contingent of staff brought by any university to the fair. They fielded a continuous stream of questions about admission requirements, programs of study, scholarships and campus life.

Right: Students entering York’s txt4tuition contest on laptops

The best connections made at the OUF are those between prospective students and York students and professors. The energetic spirit of the York OUF volunteers makes a lasting impression; the relationships begun at the OUF are crucial to encouraging prospects to attend events later in the recruitment cycle and to their deepening commitment to York as their university of choice. Prospective students met at the OUF have already been invited to visit our campuses during Fall Campus Day, taking place Nov. 7 at the Keele campus and Nov. 8 at Glendon.

The 2009 Ontario Universities’ Fair was marked by an increased presence of parents, particularly on the Friday of the event which historically draws large groups of student field trips.

Left: A faculty representative surrounded by eager students

Parents were provided with special parent packages to guide them through university selection and the services offered to both students and parents at York. This package included, for example, a specialized Parent Bookmark, which provided a month-by-month “What to Expect” for parents during the admissions process. York staff was impressed by the quality of questioning from both parents and students, underlining a trend that shows Ontario high-school students are progressively more well-researched about their postsecondary options.

From the booth, spirited student volunteers guided guests to the presentation rooms on the floor above. Along with featuring York’s Faculties and programs, York’s 30-minute presentation highlighted student engagement and achievement, giving future students a glimpse of the many ways York can help them attain their goals. York continued to make an impression with its signature presentation, which made inspired use of audience participation, enthusiastic student volunteers and interactive elements.

Right: A York student ambassador getting peppered with questions by students interested in the University

York continued to push the boundaries of experience by offering visitors a unique Web 3.0 way of staying connected with the University. Using cellphone and SMS technology, future students were encouraged to “txt4tuition,” giving eligible 2010 York entrants a chance to win free tuition for a year and be invited to upcoming events on campus. Students used their cellphones to text “yorku” to a designated number to be entered into the contest. More traditional means of entering – laptops and response cards – were also provided. Thousands entered and received a free gift – a convenient cellphone cleaner pad imprinted with the York U50 logo. The pads are a definite hit with students obsessed with mobile technology.

The Office of Admissions will continue to utilize mobile technology to respond to questions from prospective students and to promote upcoming events such as Fall Campus Day, Saturdays @ York and the Spring Gala. Student recruitment officers are blogging while on the road during fall recruitment visits, spreading the word about the txt4tuition contest. The Ontario Universities’ Fair may be the biggest event in the recruitment cycle, but it’s just the first in a series designed to showcase York, Canada’s leading interdisciplinary teaching and research university.

For more information about upcoming recruitment events, visit the Future Students Web site and click on View and Register for Events.