Image of a group of students

 by Jon Cheek
, posted On 31 Dec '16

University Events Explained (A blog for teachers to pass on to students)

“What’s in a university event for me”? It’s a question we get asked a lot. So let me take you through the type of university events you can book places on, and let you know why they are so important for people just like you considering university.

Life-changing decisions are never easy

You’ve every right to be as careful as you are excited, because your next few years are going to set you up for a lifetime. The Higher Education choices you make now will have a profound impact on you, academically, socially and personally. That’s why it’s vital to get sound advice and first-hand insight, right now, into what you’ll face as a student.

By asking the questions you want to ask, and seeing what’s ahead with your own eyes, you’ll find a smoother path to successful higher-level study, and a better chance of a career you’ll be proud of. One of the very best ways of doing that is by going to a university event.

If you think about it, universities operate in a more competitive market than ever. It’s in their interest to invite you to open days, workshops, talks and all manner of familiarisation events to let you ‘try on university for size’, see a library/lab/lecture theatre up close, and chat openly to staff members and students.

What’s in an event?

Most universities offer various visit opportunities, before and after you submit your UCAS application. The main types are:

Presentations and Workshops: informative talks and practical sessions on student finance, writing personal statements, what it’s like to be a student etc. These events would generally be organised by a university directly with your School or College. They can be delivered at your institution, or your teacher may arrange this as part of a university visit which will give you the chance to experience the campus too.

Taster/Subject Specific Sessions: a chance to ‘dip your toe’ into a course and see how it feels before making any commitment. A popular example on UniTasterDays is ‘The mystery of Branding: Why pay £200 for a £2 pen?’. This is delivered by Nottingham Trent University and explores business and marketing. You never know, it may be the final deciding factor on choosing a particular study area, or the other side of the coin, convince you that a specific subject area is just not for you!

Campus Tours: a guided look at where you’ll study, socialise and live - and your chance to ask a current student for their take on life there.

Open Days: they are what they promise: ‘open’ for you to see a university as it is - the campus(es), accommodation, lecture theatres, leisure facilities, the lot. Universities can offer them all year around, but October is a really popular month for hosting open days, mainly because of the upcoming UCAS deadlines. We would recommend attending an open day for universities you are considering including in your application, not just to see the university, but also to get a feel for an area. Many students stay in the area which they went to university in after they graduate, so this choice should not be under-estimated.

Applicant Visit Days: Once you have been made an offer, either conditional or unconditional, you may be invited to an Applicant Visit Day if the university you have applied to runs them. Generally an invite only affair, including a chance to meet fellow applicants, as well as current students, find out more about the course you have applied to, and look at accommodation too.

So, university events, what’s in them for you?

You can look around corners, talk to who you want, and ask if it’s right. You can find out the truth about higher education. You can see for yourself now what your next few years will look like.

A friend Terry Hall, who worked in the Marketing and Communications department of a large Midlands university summarised why events are so important:

“Chatting to a family from Ipswich at about 9.00am (who must have got up at about 4.00am to be there), I realised why the work I was doing mattered. Here were people looking for a future: a young girl about to face a new life, a mum and dad about to say goodbye to their daughter for three years, a family hoping our university was the best place for a good education. It was humbling.

“At the welcome desk, one father asked me why he should send his daughter to our university? I felt the desk around me go quiet. I took a deep breath and told him my own experiences as a new student there some years before. I told him about the city, the social life, the work, the pressures and the pleasures. I was honest. He listened, nodded and thanked me. Next September, I saw his daughter walking to the new IT block, and I allowed myself a smile.”

Teachers, careers colleagues and support staff: request your FREE UniTasterDays Teachers' Guide to University brochure.

This brochure has been produced by in collaboration with HELOA - to support the university guidance that is provided in secondary schools and colleges.

Editorial has been provided by over 35 colleagues at universities and higher education institutions throughout the UK. On topics covering how to support students with their university decisions, university events, widening participation & fair access, UCAS applications (including writing school references) and more. It also includes the key student finance facts from Martin Lewis.

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