Why Attend a University Fair? | Top Universities

Why Attend a University Fair?

By Jane Playdon

Updated October 13, 2021 Updated October 13, 2021

What are the benefits of attending a university fair when choosing which courses to apply to? Some may seem obvious, but to get a fuller understanding of the experience, I went along to last weekend’s QS World Grad School Tour event in London.

I was joined by almost 1,000 prospective master’s and PhD students, who were busy speaking to representatives from more than 80 top international universities and graduate schools, on hand to help candidates find their ideal graduate program.

The event is now in its fourteenth year, and regularly tours 68 cities in 40 countries. Its consistent popularity points to the distinct advantages of attending a university fair instead of just researching options online. To give a better idea of what to expect, here’s what some of Saturday’s attendees had to say about the benefits of attending the fair…

Meet universities face to face

The chance to meet universities face to face, by interacting with official representatives and alumni, is a key benefit of university events such as the QS World Grad School Tour, and the scrums that formed around some of the institutions’ tables reflected this. Students spoke about the appeal of getting immediate personalized responses to questions, finding out more about the programs and funding opportunities on offer, and getting an idea of the application process – all reasons to attend in person, rather than just stick to online research.

Molly Jack, 31, a prospective PhD candidate who is keen to pursue research in the field of sustainability, said: “I’m looking at a wide range of universities, and I’m hoping to get feedback from them and if possible get sponsorship to help carry on my career.”

Find out what university admissions officers want

Attending a university fair is also an opportunity to get a better idea of what university admissions officers are looking for – and a chance to start impressing them by showing you have the right qualities. Among the university representatives I spoke to, attributes such as determination, passion and focus were named among the most important.

Luke Parry, who works in business development at the UK’s University of Law, said: “Law is difficult… At the end of the day you really need to want it and to have that interest and passion.”

And Sophie Martin, postgraduate student advisor at London South Bank University, said they look for “someone that’s focused, because obviously they’re the easiest to help and you can find things that are most appropriate for them… someone with a vision of what they want to do after they start studying, because that can also assist the advisory process, and just someone with enthusiasm and focus, because at this level, postgraduate level, that’s really what you would expect from a candidate.”

Work experience can also be a key factor for many institutions when recruiting for certain postgraduate courses. Daniel Guth, postgraduate recruitment officer at Cardiff University for the UK and the EU market, said: “If you don’t have a 2.1 undergraduate degree but have shown in your work experience that you are able to perform well, then we will consider that. It’s flexible, dependent on the program that we are looking at.”

Attend seminars and presentations

As well as speaking to the university representatives, students can also benefit from the combined knowledge of several expert speakers on a particular topic, by attending some of the seminars and presentations that are a feature of all QS World Grad School Tour events.

On this occasion, one of the seminars was about understanding the PhD application process, with presenters from University College London (UCL), Imperial College London and the University of Melbourne – perfect for students like Shazmin Motiwala, 26, a King’s College London graduate who said she is unsure whether to do a research-based master’s degree or go directly for a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences. When asked what she hoped to get out of the event, she said that she wants “to understand the application process better [and to get] exposure to different universities”.

There was also a Law Forum seminar with presenters from King’s College London and Queen Mary University London, a panel discussion between alumni from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and a presentation on studying in the US.

Apply for scholarships, exclusive to fair attendees


Finally, a common theme among most of the university fair attendees was the importance of finding out about funding opportunities. The good news for anyone attending a QS World Grad School Tour event is that all attendees are eligible to apply for scholarships, exclusively available to fair attendees, worth a total of US$1.2 million.


These are either a set amount or worth up to 60% of tuition fees. The application process varies dependent on the scholarship (there are 14 on offer), so check the QS Graduate Scholarship page for details.

In addition, the first 100 attendees get a free copy of the QS Top Grad School Guide, which includes guides to popular study locations and courses, advice on funding and careers, and detailed information about university graduate departments worldwide – an extra help in the decision-making process.

If you missed the QS World Grad School Tour…

So far this year the QS World Grad School Tour has been to Europe, the US, Canada, Latin America, and Africa. If you missed the London event, there will be plenty more opportunities to take advantage of all the benefits (plus pick up some free chocolates and goody bags), as the tour is now moving on to other cities across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. And if you miss it this time round, the tour starts up again in a few months! Find out how to prepare for the tour with our short video below.


This article was originally published in October 2013 . It was last updated in October 2021

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Jane Playdon is a TopUniversities.com author and blogger.

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