NPN 2014 School Fairs: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Written by: Melanie Schlachter

School Fair season has arrived! Since Chicago School Search is so overwhelming and parents want to make the most of their School Fair visit, we are here to help you get ready! 

The fairs are set up as an expo with schools, enirchment programs, and childcare exhibitors set up in rows around the room.  Attendees can walk around and talk with representatives from public and private preschool and elementary schools, non-profits, and businesses with activities and services that cater to little ones.

Visit each of the following school fair event pages and scroll to the bottom to see the latest list of exhibitors:

This Q&A will help you understand how the fair works and how to register to attend. Read our tips on prepping for the fair and learn what questions to have prepared for schools on your radar.

Q: How long can you stay at the Fair?

A. Most attendees spend about an hour at the fair.  For Oct. 18th, NPN parents register for a time slot (e.g., 10am-11am). To help us manage the large number of attendees, it is very important that you arrive during your RSVP time slot.  Unless there is capacity, we cannot accommodate those who arrive at a time slot for which they did not register. However, we do understand that it might take you longer than one hour to make the rounds. 

Q. Who can attend the School Fairs?

A. The South Side Fair is open to the public and the Annual Fair members/adults only event. We ask that you leave the kids at home to help you and other attendees maximize their experience while interacting with exhitors.  To register for Oct. 18th - you must have an active NPN membership. Need to renew? Do that here. 

Q. How many people are allowed in each time slot for Oct. 18th?

A. There is a max of 300 RSVP’s for each of the 4 time slots. If you are uncertain about what time you are able to attend or your preferred time slot is already full, check out VIP access to the fair

Q. How do you register for the School Fair events?

A. If you are a member of NPN, please log in before registering.  Click on the following links and scroll down to the RSVP form. Once you submit the form, you will receive an eTicket.  If you do not receive one, please contact

Q.  How are exhibitors organized at the fair?

A. Exhibitors are typically organized grouped into two main sections: 1) preschools and preschool enrichment programs and 2) preschool and elementary school options.  

Q. How should parents prepare beforehand to make the most of their time at the event?

  • Spend some time preparing - create a “short” list of your top school options. Determine the factors that are most important to your family’s school search process (e.g., starting age, location, costs, hours/schedule, before/after school activities, etc.)
  • Visit the School Fair Exhibititor List.
  • Cross reference it with the NPN online School Directory and search to create a list of schools you don't want to miss at the fair.  
  • Create a MY DIRECTORY and save up to 30 schools that match you family's school search criteria.  You can easily map and download these options into a single PDF. Bring the PDF to the fait with you!
  • Refer to the program map to design your plan of attack. There are a lot of exhibitors to get through. Be smart about your time. 
  • Use your NPN School Fair Program (you will get that when you check in at the event) to keep track of your conversations, contacts, and progress. 

Q. What should I ask a school when visiting their exhibitor table?

A. Here are a few ideas beyond getting to know the basics about a school:

  • Confirm admissions deadlines/process, requirements (e.g., potty trained), and open house date(s)
  • Where appropriate, ask about twin and sibling policies
  • Ask about what a classroom looks like and what a typical day includes
  • Ask about options for financial aid
  • Get to know more about their teachers – teacher-student ratios and their hiring requirements
  • Get to know their before/after school activities and options
  • What are their special classes/programs?  What makes them different from other schools?

Q. What should parents do after the fair?

A. During and following your school fair visit, capture as many notes as you can about who you spoke to, points about each school you are interested in that you felt help you connect with that school, and create a list of schools you want to schedule an open house visit or tour.  The connections you make at the fair will help you have great topics to discuss when you visit each school.

Q. Should parents consider attending both School Fair events?

A. YES!  If you can, it just gives you more time and opportunities to talk to exhibitors. Some schools will be at both events.  

On the day of the event, please leave your children at home, wear comfortable shoes, allow extra time for parking (public transportation is recommended!), arrive at your designated time slot, and most importantly, talk to as many representatives and other parents as you can. You never know what new options you might discover through unexpected connections. We look forward to seeing you at the fairs!  Please contact us at with any questions.

Posted on August 13, 2014 at 9:24 PM