Open Days And What You Need To Find Out

Going to University – any University – is a big decision. It will generally be for a few years of your life, will cost you/your parents/a sponsor a considerable amount of money, and will pave the way for your future career (and possibly lifestyle).

To be able to make such a big decision, attending an Open Day at a University is very important. It’s worth investing at least a day (sometimes two or three) to visit and absorb as much as you can, and answer a few pertinent questions to enable you to make your decision.

Preparation is key.

Many Universities plan Open Days months in advance, so narrow down your selection to the institutions that teach your chosen subjects and check out the new student section of their websites for Open Day dates and information. Get the prospectus and consider things like location (to airports if you’re an international student) and student ratings when making your selection. Book onto your open days early to avoid disappointment. Also:

  • Check the timetable and book as many sessions as you can that will help you answer your questions.
  • Ask a parent or guardian to go with you – it’s useful to have another opinion, and they may see things you miss.
  • Book your travel and accommodation to the open days in advance to make the most of each visit and get the best deals. Most Universities will be able to advise on things like accommodation.
  • Write out the questions you want answers to before you go, and ask them at each University open day (see below for some questions to consider).

On the day

You’ll have the opportunity to attend some subject talks, meet some of the tutors and current students, and view the timetables for balance of teaching and independent study time. You’ll get a good feel for the atmosphere and style of teaching. If you’re not sure of which subject you want to study, you can sit in on the subjects that interest you and see which one(s) meet your needs and expectations. Be open minded – this is (probably) unfamiliar territory to your current location, and change can sometimes feel odd! So:

  • Take photos. It’s really handy for later when you’re making decisions – they’ll prompt your memory (particularly when you’ve been to a few open days!) and are useful if you want to look something up later.
  • Notes are really important too. Keep a notebook with all your notes, and make it clear which university you are referring to (using different colour pens/dividers/post its!).
  • Wear footwear that you can be on your feet in all day! You maybe doing a lot of walking.
  • Talk to as many people as you can – and don’t feel like you’re asking a silly question, they are all important.

Suggested questions to university staff/tutors:

  • What is the time split between seminars, lectures and independent study?
  • How much support will I receive from tutors?
  • Will I have to attend an interview to before getting a place?
  • Can I supplement my study with extra workshops, work placements, job shadowing, volunteering opportunities?
  • What career will this course/qualification help me towards, and is there career guidance and support at the university?

Suggested questions to university students/ambassadors:

  • What groups/societies are active?
  • What’s the best/worst thing about this university/course?
  • Do you feel safe at this university?
  • What’s the student social scene like?
  • What’s the best/worst student accommodation?
  • What’s the teaching/support like?
  • Are there part-time jobs/opportunities for students in the area?

Making your mind up

It’s best to do a pro/con list for each university, taking into account the responses to your questions at each location. Also, have a good, open conversation with the person who you went with – do they have any reservations or remarks to consider? Also:

  • What was your general impression of the location/tutors/students?
  • What subjects were most interesting to you?
  • Were the accommodation options suitable to you?
  • Search social media for reviews, interviews with students, information about the area.
  • Re-read the prospectuses and your notes.

Take your time and imagine yourself at each university – sometimes this will make you feel comfortable or not, and that ‘gut instinct’ can help you come to a conclusion. And if you have any doubts, go for another open day visit or contact the tutor/student ambassadors for more information, they are sure to help.