Your university may call this a 'Societies’ Fair', 'Welcome Week Fair' or the more traditional 'Freshers’ Fair'. Regardless of the name, these are a staple of the welcome week experience. This is when the Student Union gives societies, and sometimes local businesses, the opportunity to make themselves known to new students by hosting a stall.
For many new students this may be their first point of contact with the CU. Doing a great job with your freshers’ fair stall can be a brilliant way to introduce a new generation of students to the CU. A freshers’ fair stall ought to be three things: functional, visible and relational.
As you prepare your freshers’ fair stall, consider addressing:
The key questions to answer from your stall are: What is the CU? What is its purpose / its mission? Who is it for?
The most important thing to get across to new students is what the Christian Union actually is and what it exists to do. Shocking though it may seem, many new students will have no idea what a Christian Union is!
They might have questions such as: Is CU a kind of social club for Christians? Is it some kind of weird church on campus? Am I, as a Baptist / Methodist / Anglican / Pentecostal / anything else welcome there? What about if I’m not a Christian but am intrigued by Jesus?
Because of this, we want our freshers’ fair stalls, and the CU members at them, to be able to clearly explain the purpose and mission of CU, as well as who the CU is for. And they should do so in a way that is compelling for Christians and accessible for people who might be seeking to know more.
How can new students get involved? How can they access the CU communication channels and keep up with what’s happening? How do they join an Impact Group or sign up for the Weekend Away?
Once new students know what the CU is and have had the vision for CU clearly and enthusiastically explained to them, they’ll hopefully want to get involved. So, the next stage to consider is what this look like for them. Will it look like signing up to meet a CU member for coffee? Signing up for an Impact Group? Or just coming along and getting to know the CU at new student welcome events?
The key here is for there to be a clear and easy next step for interested new students to take. Without this, they may be left unclear as to how to connect with the CU, and CU may slip off their radar as welcome week goes by and other things fill up their schedule. So, before freshers’ fair, have a think about what the next step(s) for new students you meet could be, and be ready to offer it when they come by.
When and where are the key events over the next week, two weeks and month?
This is really an extension of the how point, but it’s worth emphasising separately: details are important! It’s brilliant if a new student has got the vision for CU, knows what the next event is and is eager to come along. But that will be little good if they are clueless as to when the event is happening and where it’s taking place.
So, make sure to have specific details ready in advance and close to hand, so you can easily give them to new students. A well-designed flyer with all the details of upcoming meetings and contact details and social media details of CU is a helpful give away to students visiting your freshers’ fair stall.
Your stall needs to stand out from the crowd. Surround yourself with images that give a glimpse into CU life? It’s worth putting a good amount of effort into the look of your stall: the first impression from the way the CU stall looks will be vital in giving new students a sense of what the CU is like.
A key aim of the CU’s freshers’ week ministry is to facilitate ongoing friendships that will outlast the busy early weeks of term. Incorporate that into what you offer at the freshers’ fair. The University of Sheffield CU offered the chance to meet a returning CU member for coffee. They were amazed at how many people – British and international, Christian or otherwise – signed up. This would be a great way of growing deeper connections beyond the restraints of a restricted freshers’ fair. Other ideas you could try:
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