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College Conversations

College Conversations is an invite-only non-traditional college fair created to address the issue of student “undermatching” at the postsecondary level. Unlike a traditional college fair, students have the opportunity to have small group conversations with admissions representatives and receive personal insight into the college application process. The event provides students with exposure to universities and information about college choice and undermatching.


College Conversations exposes invited students to more selective colleges and universities that students may not be familiar with, but may be a better fit for their abilities and offer greater financial aid. Additionally, students gain exposure to the more nuanced admissions processes of selective colleges and universities.


Undermatching is a phenomenon in American higher education in which well-qualified students, often from less affluent households, do not apply to competitive colleges. Undermatched students often attend less-demanding colleges or don't attend college at all. College Conversations directly addresses the national issue of undermatching by exposing students to some of the most selective colleges in the nation; colleges in which many students in the District are not traditionally exposed.

Who can attend College Conversations?

OSSE works closely with high school staff to identify students who meet one of the following criteria: 

  • The top five ranked students of each high school’s senior class;
  • Seniors who participate in a Dual Enrollment program and have a 3.5 GPA or above; and
  • Current and former OSSE Scholars.

College Conversations is designed for a smaller audience while targeting particular students. This is one of many ways to promote college access and offers a unique experience for students in attendance, in comparison to the larger, more traditional college fairs.

Postsecondary Institutions

OSSE uses the following criteria to identify participating postsecondary institutions:

  • Selective admissions criteria and rankings;
  • Test score optional schools;
  • Colleges with generous financial aid packages;
  • Strong support programs for students;
  • Schools that traditionally do not recruit from DC public and DC public charter schools; and
  • Schools where we currently have partnerships through OSSE Scholars. College Conversations 2018 attendees included:

American University, Bowdoin College, Brown University, Colgate University, Columbia University, Davidson College, Duke University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Hampton University, Harvard University, Haverford College, Middlebury College, Morehouse College, New York University, Northwestern University, Pomona College, Princeton University, Smith College, Spelman College, Stanford University, Syracuse University, Trinity Washington University, University of California -Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Maryland - College Park, University of Wisconsin - Madison, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, Washington College, Washington University in St. Louis, Williams College, and Yale University.

Tentative Event Schedule

9-9:30 a.m. Welcome & Introduction

Panel Discussions - Admission officers will sit on a panel with other college representatives and briefly share information about their institutions, and answer general questions from the audience.

9:35-10:15 a.m. Panel discussion session one
10:20-11 a.m. Panel discussion session two
11-11:30 a.m. Lunch (provided)

Small Discussions - Admissions officers will sit individually at small tables and students will rotate to have small discussions with each representative

11:35 a.m.-12 p.m. Small discussion one
12:05-12:30 p.m. Small discussion two
12:35-1 p.m. Small discussion three

For more information or questions, please contact Christina Beal at [email protected].