Once you have shortlisted universities that you are interested in, you can start looking into university open day dates. It is important that you make the effort to go to these days; they give you the opportunity to talk to course convenors, current students and even just to get a feel for the university itself. Here are the ways to make the most out of a university open day.
Plan in advance
Universities often hold many open days, so do your research:
- Make a list of dates you can attend. Try to attend the open days that are running during the summer holidays, that way a lot more facilities and events will be open because students will not be around. The UCAS website provides a list of upcoming open day dates.
- Try to visit between at least 4-5, this is roughly the amount of universities you have to apply to via UCAS.
- If you have a list of universities that are all over the country, space out when you will visit all of them – don’t book a visit to Manchester on the 25th when you have to be in Exeter for the 26th! Ensure you know how to travel to the universities so you do not turn up late – you want to be there for a good chunk of the day to make the most out of the facilities.
- If you can, research the activities and events being held during the open days. All open days are unique but there are usually standard events that run, such as mock lectures and accommodation tours. Look at the times when each start and try to plan your day accordingly – this is better than just turning up and seeing what’s there.
On the day
Get there early so that you have time throughout the rest of the day to do some exploring. It would be a good idea to get straight to the course events first, after all, the course is the most important aspect of the university you are looking at. Try to get involved with the following:
Attending a mock lecture
Here, they usually give you information on the structure of the course, teaching standards, available modules and generally how things work. Some universities do not only provide introductions, they also go through certain topics as well to give you a feel of how lectures go.
Looking around a course ‘fair’
Some universities run these types of events, where stalls are set up to give you the opportunity to speak to available lecturers and seminar tutors on a course that you like. Mock lectures are good for giving you a general overview, but this is a good opportunity to speak to a member of teaching staff one-on-one. Ask questions, talk to them about the course, let them give you some advice – they may even give you some tips on how to write your personal statement. Course fairs are also great ways to explore the different versions of your course – if you are considering a dual degree or a sandwich equivalent or even a similar course with an add-on module, you can speak to people to get some advice.
Try to attend any other events that are being held for your specific course and speak to as many people as possible – including any volunteer students who are currently on the course that you like.
Once you have exhausted all information to do with your chosen course, (and of course if you actually like the degree scheme you are thinking of up-taking), it is a good idea to get a feel of the university itself:
Join an accommodation tour
Beforehand, it would be a good idea to look up the variety of accommodation that the university offers. Research the different budgets that they fall into and what you can afford. You could also pick your accommodation based on how close it is to where the department for your course is. This is not essential for many – it is just for your ease and convenience. Universities do not always open up all the accommodation available, so if a particular hall you like is not open to view, check the outside, see where it is relevant to other facilities on campus, and just view something similar that is open – a lot of university halls don’t vary too much between the buildings.
Look out for campus tours
This gives you the opportunity to have a good explore around the university itself. Look around all the facilities – the study spaces, eateries, bars. Just get a feel of the university culture, there may be volunteer students placed around at posts – talk to them, ask them what it is like at the university, what student life is like -it’s your chance to get some real insider information.
After you get a feel for the university campus, it is a good idea to perhaps explore the surrounding area. Go into the local town/city and have a little look around – what the shopping is like, the supermarket availability, transport systems – these will all impact you in your student life.
The overall point to take away is the course always comes first. You should not put a university campus before the quality of the degree. Spend the majority of the open day finding out details and information on the degree, interrogate course convenors and current students, pick up a course guide/prospectus. If the campus is also great, then fantastic. But do not pick the shopping and nightlife over a good course.