What I learned from my first college conference


Sam Schlenner

Edward Snowden spoke to college students at the ACP conference in D.C. through Skype on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.

Going into my first college conference, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I should look nice, have a bunch of resumes and business cards (but what do I even put on a business card?) and be prepared to be exhaustively professional.

Well, I just got through my first conference ever. I attended the Associated Collegiate Press Conference in Washington, D.C., this past weekend with fellow Posties, and I’m here to tell you what I screwed up on, forgot to pack, triumphed in and more — so you don’t have to panic when it’s time for your first conference!

  • Come prepared. Bring copies of your resume, business cards, snacks, Tylenol, sightseeing clothes, cash and chargers.
  • Speaking of which, invest in a portable charger. Or, if you’re like me, don’t forget that portable charger at your parents’ house and have your phone die mid-Snapchat.
  • Talk to people! Depending on the type of conference you’re attending, everyone there is probably going into a similar career as you and will probably have good connections. Hand out those business cards and resumes!
  • If someone is giving a presentation and they provide their Twitter handle, email or website URL, write it down and make contact with them. Tweet at them about how much you enjoyed their presentation or send a follow-up email. It’s all about connections.
  • Dress fancy. Get some actual business attire. Treat packing for the conference like you’re dressing for a job interview.
  • Download the conference app, if there is one. They’ll send alerts to your phone if a session is cancelled or moved.
  • Start saving up money for food and other trip-related expenses right away. I went to Washington D.C., and the food there was really expensive, plus 10 percent sales tax. As if tuition wasn’t already draining my bank account . . .
  • Go out and see the city you’re in. Sure, you’ll probably be exhausted after being 150 percent professional all day and want to die in your hotel room, but you really should go out and enjoy the sights, especially if you’ve never been there before.
  • Figure out how to work the transportation system in the city, or be prepared to walk everywhere.
  • Research the weather before you go. You don’t want to be wearing booty shorts when it’s 35 degrees outside (and you should be dressing more professionally than that, anyway).
  • Pack (professional) layers! I went to one session where I was freezing, then another that felt like a sauna.
  • If there’s a trade show or a job fair, take advantage of that. I actually made plans to go to the trade show, but didn’t because I was in so many sessions throughout the day and didn’t feel like waking up early to go. Now I regret that. (Who doesn’t love free swag?! Oh, and possible job opportunities.)
  • On that note, accept the fact that you’ll be sleep-deprived. There’s just no way around it.
  • Hang out with the peeps you’re attending with. Chances are, you’ll never get to bond with them in a strange city ever again.
  • If you’re flying, pick out new jamz, make sure all of your liquids are under three ounces and smile at all of the TSA agents.

This is the first conference I ever went to, so I’m by no means an expert, but I hope my experiences are able to help you feel more prepared when you attend your first conference.