SMC's College Fair: The Biggest College Fair in California

Imagine a day where the Santa Monica College Main Campus quad is filled with college representatives from hundreds of campuses, including Columbia University in New York, The American University of Paris in France and the University of Southern California all within a few feet of each other. Any student who is thinking of transferring can wander through the quad and learn about the many colleges that are coming from all over the world.

On Tuesday, Oct. 10, SMC is holding its biannual college fair. This event happens to be the largest fair of this type in the state of California out of all 114 community colleges.

This fall, 182 colleges are confirmed to be in attendance. The event is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is free so that anybody who wants to walk up and talk to somebody about a college can do so. A list of all schools attending is currently on the Santa Monica College website.

Maria Bonin is the Articulation and Transfer Specialist on campus, and has been working with SMC since 1999. She oversees the planning of the event as its coordinator.

“When we refer to it as the biggest in California, there’s 114 community colleges, and SMC by far exceeds the attendance of the different types of schools,” Bonin said. “That’s what makes ours the largest. Other community colleges may have 70 but this semester has over 180 schools confirmed.”

Every fall and spring semester, hundreds of colleges come from around the world to SMC. When Bonin started, the college only offered a fair in the fall semester which is when most transfer applications are due. That changed about 10 years ago, when growing demand brought the school to offer a college fair during the spring semester as well.

With the number of colleges attending, Bonin explained that it took a lot of time to properly reach out and get schools confirmed. “I actually sent out invites in the middle of August and closed registration when September ended because I’ve never had this problem where there is so much interest that I have to close portal early," Bonin said. "Some of them I’ve had to turn down at this point.”

The fair was planned to cost about $6000 this semester. This district money coming from the state goes towards table and chair rentals, food for the representatives, and general operating costs. This year is different however, as the Associated Students of SMC plans to co-sponsor the college fair.

On Sept. 6, A.S. went over a proposal to pay $1950.37 out of the $6069.91 needed to pay for the college fair. The proposal requested the money to pay for catering for the college representatives. The A.S. unanimously voted to approve the funding.

Bonin explained why they approached the A.S. to help fund this year's college fair. “Typically, we are able to get our funding from the district for all of it, but because of the way that the budget is right now, there was the understanding that we most likely weren’t going to get the funding for this semester."

In addition to approving the funding for food, A.S. will have their own booth during the event for students, and have been promoting the fair with flyers in their office. Jennifer Chen, the president of A.S. who has attended the past college fairs hosted by SMC, plans to attend this upcoming fair.

“They came to A.S. and asked for funding for the reps who are coming to get breakfast and I think it’s nice to do so because those reps travel from far away to reach students," Chen said. "It’s great to know the representative because some of them are actually the people who determine our admissions at the universities... You’ll be amazed at how many colleges are there at the same event willing to answer questions from students.”

For the day of the event, Bonin worked with the campus police to reserve a few floors of parking for the representatives coming to the event. Days before the college fair, they have placed small flyers on parked cars' windshields at the parking lot. The flyers advised student drivers to look for alternative ways to come to campus that Tuesday when the college fair occurs. They included suggestions such as using Uber or parking at a satellite campus like Bundy and taking it to the main campus.

The organizers have also posted pamphlets around campus advertising the college fair, which include a list of sample questions so that students will have a general idea of what to ask representatives. The transfer center also sent out a mass email to students advertising the fair as the biggest college fair in California.

All the work that is being put into the college fair is to help students get a sense of what they intend on doing after SMC by letting them see colleges around the world and engaging with them.

“I feel this is a great thing for our students because where else are you going to have so many schools in one setting where you can basically travel around the globe and talk to the different schools,” Bonin said. “Most students come to SMC because of the transfer success so making sure they understand the importance of coming to the event and talking to the reps is important.”

Janet Robinson who works in the transfer center as the faculty leader and assists with the college fair agrees with Bonin that the event is a great opportunity for students to learn about institutions they may transfer to.

“This is a culminating event for us each semester, Robinson said. "You don’t have to get in your car and drive anywhere or get in a plane and fly, they are going to be right here for you in Santa Monica and that’s huge.”