One of the underlying tenets of GEAR UP is exposing students to college options early. College representatives have demanding schedules with little time to devote to younger grades, especially in rural communities. Several GEAR UP schools have found the solution: making students the experts and serving as "representatives" for schools in student-led college fairs that combine research and presentation skills.

At Culver Middle School, 7th grade students worked in groups to research a specific college (in 2017, students focused on schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference). Students assembled displays and presented their knowledge to other students and parents. College fair attendees completed a "scavenger hunt" to learn about the different colleges, as well as career options presented by community members.

Culver's Student-Led College Fair

Sophomores at Lowell Junior/Senior High School used time during their careers class to research schools and write to their chosen college to ask for handouts and decorations for their booth. Middle school students explored the college fair, learning about college options and building near-peer relationships.