University open days have become an integral part of the application process for many students. Often billed as an opportunity to find out about all aspects of university life, they can be an eye opening experience for many but it is important to be wary of the façade. An open day is designed to present the very best of a university and to convince prospective students that this is where they want to study. So are they worth it? And how can you ensure you get the most out of it?
Applying for the right subject?
Different universities teach in different styles, so attending an open day gives you the opportunity to meet the people teaching you. Most universities will offer ‘taster’ lectures so you can actually see if this is an area you will be happy to study for the next few years. It also gives you a chance to speak to students currently studying the course and get a hands on perspective of what it is really like. If you’re tossing up between 2 or 3 subjects, this can be especially useful.
Getting a feel for the place
It is really difficult to get the ambience of the place through a computer screen, so attending an open day can ensure you really get a feel of the place you could be living in for the next 3 or 4 years. You’ll have a chance to look at the accommodation, check out the facilities and see the local area so that can really work out what you are looking for in terms of choosing, for example, between a campus versus city-based university.
You’ll also make the journey from home and back, giving a great indication into travel time! Most importantly visiting in person will give you a ‘gut feeling’ of a place that you really shouldn’t ignore.
Getting advice on your application
Attending an open day is a great opportunity to find out more about the application process for that particular university. You can attend talks on student finance, UCAS and how to apply plus pick up tips from staff and students about getting into a particular course.
Be wary of false impressions
For all that you’ll be given an enthusiastic welcome and a tour of the best bits of the university, remember that this is a sales pitch to you the student. Make sure you look through the smiles and style for the actual substance.
Our top tips to make the most of the open day:
Know what you want to see, who you want to talk to and what you’re going to ask. Make sure you really think about what you want from the day and make a ‘priority list’ ahead of travelling.
Talk and listen!
Make sure you talk to as many people as you can to build up an accurate picture of life at the university, especially current students who do your course.
To take your parents or not?
Parents and open days don’t always mix. If they insist on coming, make sure you do have time to explore on your own and that you are the one asking questions. There are usually parent-specific talks so send them on these whilst you explore on your own. Remember though, your parents can bring a practical perspective to the day, not least a free lunch!
Visit mid term
To avoid the glossy open day image, attend in term time to get a real feel of day to day life at university. Even better if you know a current student you can stay with!
Start considering your preferences at the end of Y11 so you can start visiting them at the beginning and end of Y12 and start of Y13. It’s worth visiting as many as possible to help you make decisions.