Often students arriving at university have only visited once beforehand, on an Open Day. It is therefore crucial to make the most of this opportunity so that your final choice of where to study will be an informed one. Here are 7 tips to make your day run smoothly and get all the information you need.
Before you get there
1. Research the university
To make the most of their time, students should ensure that the university is somewhere that they are genuinely interested in attending. It’s a waste of time and money to arrive at an Open Day, only to discover that the university does not even provide your course. Or maybe the degrees are 4 years and you only want to study a 3 year course. With a few simple google searches, you can easily eliminate certain universities and save yourself a lot of time and hassle.
Questions to research before visiting:
- Does the university offer my course?
- What is a typical offer for my course?
- Is there a university campus or are the buildings spread across a town/city?
- Are there any particular subjects that my course requires?
- Does this department require applicants to take an admissions test / sit an interview / provide a portfolio?
- How long is my course?
- How well is this university ranked for my course
- How far away is this university from my home town?
2. Prepare Questions
Preparing questions for both students and staff before the Open Day will ensure you don’t waste any valuable question time trying to think of something to ask.
Don’t just stick to the obvious course questions; consider what is most important to you in your university experience. Access to sport facilities, cost of living, career advice, nightlife, pastoral care, extracurricular activities, travel, accommodation: these are all things that will have an immense impact on your student experience and could be a deciding factor in whether you attend the university.
Tip: There is little point in asking questions that can easily be answered by a quick google search so save yourself valuable time on the day by reading the course website. This will allow you to use your time more effectively by asking questions that are specific to you.
3. Plan your day
Once you have registered your interest for an Open Day, you will normally receive information from the university by post or email. Use the timetables and maps provided to carefully plan your day. Often more than one lecture or tour will be happening at once so make a timetable of your day to ensure you don’t miss anything that could be relevant to your subject.
Book your transport and find directions to the university buildings well in advance of your trip to ensure your day runs as smoothly as possible. It can also be useful to print out a map of the campus if one has not already been sent to you.
When you arrive
4. Ask questions
The main aim of an Open Day is to get your questions answered. Don’t be shy when approaching university staff; they are there to give you as much information as possible. If you are shown around by current students, take the opportunity to ask their opinions on the student experience. Listen to what other students ask in Q&A sessions as you may hear something you hadn’t thought of asking.
Tip: Consider what kind of people would be best placed to answer your questions. Current students will be able to speak honestly about the student experience whereas questions about admissions decisions and applications should be directed at tutors.
Example questions to ask:
On student life:
- Is it expensive to live here?
- How much does accommodation / a night out / travel cost?
- What’s the workload like in a typical week?
- How have you found the teaching / facilities / course so far?
On the course:
- How many hours of teacher contact time do you receive?
- How is the subject examined? Coursework or written tests?
- What are the career prospects after finishing this degree?
- Are any particular subjects or qualifications favoured in applications?
- What do admissions tutors look for in an application?
- What is the university policy on gap years and deferred entry?
- Am I at an advantage if I send in my application early?
Avoid camping out in one university building all day; try to see as many parts of the campus as possible. Don’t be afraid to walk around the shared spaces such as common rooms or student cafes to get a feel for where you’ll be spending your time.
Not only is this your chance to see the university itself, but also the town/city it’s surrounded by. If there’s a break or lunch hour timetabled into your day, take the opportunity to explore the town.
6. Take notes
On an Open Day you will be given a lot of information in a short space of time which can be quite overwhelming. Note down all your findings throughout the day so you can refer back to the experience later on in the application process. Keep a record of all your notes so you can easily compare different universities after you’ve attended a few more Open Days.
7. Don’t be afraid to go alone
Often the students who gain the most out of Open Days are those who go by themselves. If you go with a group of friends then it can become too tempting to follow what they’re doing, rather than going to the events and stalls that will be relevant to you.
A lot of students are accompanied by their parents on Open Days but if your parents do attend, ensure that you are the one to plan the day and ask the questions as ultimately it will be you who studies for the degree.