College fair caters to aspiring artists, performers

Atlanta Performing and Visual Arts College Fair

When: Oct. 1, 7 to 9 p.m

Where: Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, Pebblebrook High School (991 Old Alabama Road in Mableton).

Information: 770-819-2521,

Most high school students who attend college fairs discover that the events are great ways to meet representatives from schools around the country and to learn about programs that might make appealing majors. But students who already have their hearts set on studying the performing or visual arts often need to sift through a slew of information to find out about the programs they want to pursue.

A specialized college fair geared toward just those interests can connect aspiring performers and artists with the universities, colleges and conservatories that will prepare them for a career in the arts. On Oct. 1, more than 70 of those schools will send representatives to the Atlanta Performing and Visual Arts College Fair, which will be at the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton. Each institution will share information about programs such as drama, musical theater, dance, design and more.

“This fair is a great way for kids to find out exactly what programs fit their needs and specific interests,” said Frank Timmerman, director of the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts. “For instance, a student might hear names of schools but not know anything about their programs. They may have heard of Juilliard (in New York City) and think that’s where they want to go, but if they’re pursing musical theater, they’ll find out that Juilliard doesn’t have that program.”

Attendees also get face time with representatives and create important contacts, said Rachel McCoy, associate director of national college fairs for the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Arlington, Va., which is sponsoring the fair.

“A fair is a great opportunity for college-bound students to talk to someone about their plans and learn what might be a good fit for them,” McCoy said. “There are few places where they can have those face-to-face conversations with reps from around the country.”

Among the local colleges that will have a presence at the fair are Georgia State University, Reinhardt University, Young Harris College, Kennesaw State University, Piedmont College and the Savannah College of Art and Design. For schools sending representatives, it’s a great way to make contacts with potential students, said Samuel Robinson, assistant dean of admissions and student services for the College of the Arts at Kennesaw State.

“From our perspective, this fair is one of the few places where we get to meet students specifically interested in the arts,” he said. “They come from all over the region, so it’s such a good opportunity to meet a wide range of kids who want to major in the things we offer — music, dance, theater and performance studies, art and design. I really enjoy these fairs because usually the students know what they’re looking for; they know what it means to be a musical theater (student) versus a theater student.”

Students who have a particular goal or program in mind, or who think they may want to pursue higher education in the performing or visual  arts, should start thinking about options as soon as possible, Robinson suggested.

“In the arts it’s important to start thinking about it at least by sophomore year,” he said. “By junior year,  they can learn about specific schools and find out about what each one offers, then pick the schools where they want to set up auditions. It’s very important to visit the campus, too.”

Attending a fair also helps students narrow choices and zero in on programs that will fit their objectives, McCoy said.

“A fair is a great way to get used to talking to college representatives instead of waiting for the senior year,” she said. “Sometimes students don’t know what questions to ask until they meet some of these representatives and learn how the process works. Then it can change their whole postsecondary conversation.”