By Sarah Hartman, Parkland College
“You must attend this conference, you will learn more than you ever thought possible!” These were words that I heard often from my new boss who had attended this event many times before. Although I had someone with me who had been to the conference numerous time before, and gave me pointers on what I should attend, there are things that I wish I would’ve known that I want others who are considering the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling conference to know as well. Here are my Must Do’s if you are attending IACAC for the first time.
Attend as many session as possible.
Do not pick a session just because you think you need to, really research what each session is about and attend the session that sounds exciting to you. Branch out and try a session that you might not normally attend, the point of this conference is to learn something new!
Go to the first-timers lunch.
This is a great way to meet people who are just like you and have never attended the conference before. Not only is this the perfect way to meet new people, but trust me you will enjoy a few laughs as well. If you came with other first-timers, try to split up at different tables for this lunch so that you can meet new people. Dress up for the theme! I didn’t because I was afraid I would be the only one dressed up. Trust me: this was not the case. Not only were the volunteers dressed up, but other first-timers were as well. Don’t end up kicking yourself for taking advantage of a fun opportunity like I was. Trust me, you will enjoy the songs, laughs, jokes, and much more at this event.
I will admit, I was overwhelmed at first. There were so many people who were sitting around chatting and there I was standing there like the new kid at school. I started off just grabbing a seat at a random table and chatting with the people there. This really helped boost my confidence and also helped me to realize that these people were just as interested in talking to me as I was to learn from them. I also suggest taking a look at peoples’ nametags. They specify whether they are a first-timer, retiree, community college member, etc., and this is a great way to break the ice when you sit down. Lastly, make sure you bring business cards to exchange, and make sure you bring lots of them! I can’t tell you the number of e-mails I have already received from people I met at the IACAC conference who just wanted to follow up or had a question.
Attend the Mentorship Reception.
Grab a free drink and mingle around with others who are interested in being a mentor or a mentee. Playing human bingo at this event made it a lot easier to meet people and gave me something to talk with others about. I was able to speak to past IACAC presidents, first-timers, out of state attendees, and many more. You do not want to miss this event!
Enjoy the entertainment.
After the sessions and dinner end, don’t go back to your room for the night. Instead, enjoy the entertainment! Some of my favorite moments from the conference were doing the entertainment activities. It’s not all music and dancing. We played air hockey, shot basketball hoops, received glowstick necklaces, and tried out props in the photo booth. This was a great way relax and reflect after a long day of sessions. I highly recommend that you attend the entertainment activities, even if it’s only for an hour or so. You won’t be disappointed.
Attend the membership meeting.
I honestly was not looking forward to this meeting, I mean I was a new member, why would I need to go to a membership meeting? I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone needs to attend this meeting if for no other reason, to find out where your membership dues are going. This meeting was enlightening, people asked great questions, and brought up new things for everyone to consider. You actually get to be part of changes to IACAC language and budget issues through your votes. If you do not attend this session you can’t vote. Why miss out on such an important part of your IACAC membership? Don’t miss out on this meeting!
More than anything, just make sure that you learn something new at the conference, have fun, and meet new people. If your experience is anything like mine, you will itching to go back to IACAC next year!