Virtual Fairs Can Attract Real-World Applicants to Your Program

Applicant at computer

The Virtual Fairs, organized by PAEA and hosted on the CareerEco platform, offer a special opportunity to reach many students across the pre-PA pathway, making an asset out of the remote communication to which we’ve all become accustomed in the last few years. Applicants can discover programs across the country that they may not have previously considered, or didn’t know about at all, but only if your program participates.

The 2023 Virtual Fairs, on May 10 and July 15, are now open to registration for member programs.

When it came to the 2023 fair dates, we want you to know that we heard your feedback and specially selected these dates with our member programs and pre-PAs in mind. Due to the vast differences in preference between our programs and our student attendees, we decided the May 10 fair would take place on a Wednesday and the July 15 fair would take place on a Saturday.

The virtual fairs allow a program to get “outside their region” and interact with applicants from many places and a variety of past experiences, increasing the pool of diversity for those programs.

As they did in 2022, the organizers of the fairs are making the second Virtual Fair of the year a special event by adding a focus on EDI recruiting.

For all prospective PAs, applicants can see what’s offered by multiple programs without the cost of travel, lodging, or even time off of work. The PA virtual fairs may be an even greater bargain because there is no cost to students or health professions advisors for attending.

A prospective PA who shows a strong interest in a program and who shows promise may get an extra incentive. PAEA staff said they have seen some students get a kind of “pre-interview” for one or more programs during the Virtual Fair, making the event even more valuable both to the student and the program that finds a new member.

Virtual Fairs are also a way for programs to go beyond identifying a potential student. They can be a link in the chain that creates an ongoing pipeline of quality applicants who can add to the ongoing strength of a program.

The Virtual Fairs are a strong force in recruitment efforts with almost 100 programs participating in the last few years and about 2,000 to 2,500 students participate although more than that have expressed interest in the fairs.

Several programs have already registered for the May fair.

PAEA staff have developed a media kit, with pieces available on the Virtual Fairs webpage, that can be used on social media to display banners or flyers to show prospective students that a program is involved. Signing up for participation in the fairs is an important step but that effort can be supplemented by letting students know that your program can be found at the Virtual Fair and will provide interaction for the students who become involved.

Another way to make the Virtual Fairs valuable is to plan content like presentations or participation on behalf of your program by students who have already been recruited and have become advocates for the program.

It is vital that programs plan thoughtful, intentional content during the fair. If students find that a program hasn’t assigned any staff to answer questions in their booth or has no interactive elements, they may move on to the next program or leave the fair altogether. For that reason, PAEA staff recommend a commitment from participating programs, that they not only sign up but take an active part during the fair.

The deadline to register for the May 10 Virtual Fair is May 8.

A webinar, which runs about 50 minutes, available here, has more information that can help you decide if Virtual Fairs are right for your program and if so, how you can best utilize the events to serve your program’s needs.

There is still time to Register by March 29 and save $100 on the cost of registering for both of the 2023 Virtual Fairs.