I’d imagine that if you’re reading this, you’re probably starting to think about, or in the process of looking at universities. I’m hoping that I can put together a simple guide on ‘How to Get the Most Out of a University Open Day’, so that you can make sense of what can be a full-on, information heavy day, and get you in a good place to make some important decisions.
Make a Shortlist
There are so many good universities around the country, and often, they’ll have open days on the same day. It’s not possible to visit them all, not to mention expensive, so prioritising is crucial.
You can use a mixture of things to work out your short list – from league tables, to university websites/prospectuses themselves, or even the UCAS search function. At school, we were able to use UniFrog – a website that allows you to put in your course interests, predicted grades, and how far away from home you wanted to travel – and it would do the hard work for you!
Whatever you do, make sure you look at your research with an open mind. You never know what you may be surprised by, or what’ll take your fancy. League tables are not everything, and while can be useful as a starting place: don’t get caught up in the nitty gritty.
I like to think that if I was going to a job interview, I wouldn’t just casually turn up on the day without any preparation. Nor, if I’m going to teach a session at Church, I don’t waltz in on the day of, 20 minutes before the time starts, without a plan.
The same applies for Open Days. In order to have the most effective, and worthwhile day, it’s vitally important to prepare, and think about the day before hand. Here are a list of things to prepare before going – and they really do help the day go more smoothly. These days often involve travelling, and so can be really tiring. If you’ve prepped well, then it should reduce any frustration due to exhaustion!
- Read up on the course content
- Make a note of First Year modules
- Research halls/accommodation
- If there are any you’d especially like to tour; write that down
- Fit your day around talks with a Tutor/lecturer.
- These are limited – but ultimately you’re going to university to study – so the course HAS to be the most important thing.
- Prepare a list of questions, and think about who you can ask
- If you need a hand, I’ve got a list below to get you started
- Use advance information that you may have been sent by the University themselves
- Bring a notebook and pen
- You’ll want to write down notes – so you can remember things after
- Print out a map
- Campuses can be huge – and it helps knowing how to get from A to B
- Download any Open Day Apps
- These may have updated timetables, or things to look out for during the day
- Follow social media for updates
- Pack/Wear comfortable (walking) shoes, and smart-casual clothes
Think about Questions
It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of the day, but also possible to be overwhelmed by it. In order to ensure you find out all the information you want to know, and don’t leave feeling like “Oh, I really should have asked that”, it can be helpful to think about questions before hand.
It can definitely be a daunting day, and difficult to know how to comprehend all that’s going on, and so here is a list of questions that I had written down in the front of a notebook, which I took to every open day I went to.
- In an average week how many academic contact hours would I have?
- Will there be much one-to-one or small group time?
- How will I be assessed?
- Which modules are compulsory?
- How are marks split between assignments and exams?
- Are there opportunities to study abroad?
- What are the department’s specialist research areas?
- How accessible are the academic staff?
- What careers support is there?
- What are popular career destinations (for my course)?
- How do combined honours work?
- What are the transport links like?
- Where would be the most sensible place for someone studying my subject to live?
- What is the rental market like?
- How can I make my application stand out?
- How much is IT used?
Now – I know that seems like a long list. But you may find that many get answered in a few talks, such as a ‘Welcome Talk’, or even an introduction to your course. But if you’ve thought about them, then you’re more likely to be listening out for the answers. This information can be really important to have written down, in order to compare, and finalise your choices.
Don’t just Leave it There
Visiting universities on open days is a great way to see the campus/uni, get a feel for what it’s like (as each and every one is different), and starting forming your own ideas about what is right for you. If there’s one piece of advice I can give you though, it’s to not leave what you’ve learnt at the Open Day
Come home, and think about what you learnt, discuss it with friends and family, and write down your thoughts. It’ll be far more useful when you’re making your decision at a later date, if you’ve got your immediate thoughts – rather than a blur of several different open days, and you can’t quite remember which accommodation belonged to which campus… (and trust me, this does happen!).
I put together a spreadsheet (Excel-geek I know!) that had a comparison of some of the most important things for me when making my decision, and I added the information in after each visit. I included things like; length of course, assessment type, cost of accommodation, library facilities, and music ensembles/availability, as each of these were a factor in my decision making process.
Go with an Open Mind
One of the most important things to remember, is that each university is going to feel different to everyone. You’ll find one that is right for you – and it doesn’t have to be the top ranked, or the most prestigious – instead, one that feels like home is probably a better place to go.
You may have expectations, or you may not – but be prepared to be surprised. You never know what you may find when you go and visit.
I shall leave you with Five Final Tips for ‘Getting the Most out of a University Open Day!’
Speak to Students (they’re the ones who are living and working there)
Make sure to see the accommodation
Check out the surrounding area
Attend a sample lecture
Ask lots and lots of questions!
I hope this guide has helped you know a little of what to expect, and a lot of how to prepare for an upcoming visit to a University. It’s a really exciting time, and it’s all about learning and discovering what the next chapter is: so remember to let yourself be excited by it!
If you’ve got any questions about the University process, please get in touch!