Career fairs are just one of a few ways to get “your foot in the door” with different opportunities that aren’t easily available outside of a higher education setting.
Yes actual classes, and projects you do within classes can teach you things, and that is what most people think of, when thing think of going to higher education, but there are a few other advantages:
Beyond career fairs there’s also:
- job centers
- access to faculty
- networking opportunities with peers, and graduate students
- research opportunities, with graduate students
- clubs/organizations that can help
Each of these can help you stand out, or get a better footing with companies out there. Each of them can be helpful beyond just going to a career fair.
I’d see if you can access any of these resources while looking out for more career fairs, that hopefully will be better about providing any opportunities.
Personally, I used career fairs more as a “metric” of seeing who is hiring, what they are looking for and what sort of companies are putting in some effort. I wouldn’t, try to use them directly as a way to get a job, due to very high competition, along with stringent requirements. As you said, these companies are only looking to hire seniors who are about to graduate.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t lookup online to competitor companies, or other jobs within the same company and use whatever information you gathered from the career fair itself to get an idea of how to “stick out” of the application process. It’s not much, but it is something that could help you find, get some internship work.
If anything else, you will get an idea of what they are looking for in a senior, so you can go out and get that knowledge. So when the time comes your much more prepared for the job at hand.
Good luck, keep learning