Students drinking coffee at an open day outside

 by Naomi Smith
, posted On 19 Jan '17
 Journalism graduate and Higher Education Blogger

How can students make the most of a university open day

Guest blog by Naomi Smith, Journalism Graduate and Higher Education Blogger

Teachers - please pass this blog on to your students!

One of the best ways to determine whether a university is right for you is to experience it first-hand. And that’s what open days are all about. You’re probably going to be spending three or four years + at university, so it’s really important that you make the right choice. These top tips will help you get the most out of any university open day.

Make a shortlist

There are around 370 universities and higher education colleges in the UK. You can’t visit all of them so decide whether you want to stay close to home or move away, and then use the UCAS website to look at online prospectuses and narrow down your options.

Think about what you want from a university; then make a list of criteria and write down all the universities that match up. Find out when their open days are and decide which ones you can reasonably visit.

Plan ahead

This is the university’s best chance to ‘sell’ itself to you so there’s going to be a lot going on. This includes campus and accommodation tours, a chance to meet lecturers and find out more about relevant departments, talks about finance, and more.

Most universities will provide a programme of events, either in advance or when you arrive on campus. Make sure you know when everything’s happening and put together a schedule so that you don’t miss anything. Find a map and get exploring!

Remember: this is about you, not your parents.

Deciding whether to attend an open day alone or with family is always a toughie. On one hand, you’re parents are going to want to be involved and they may even cover expenses… Plus, it’s all much less intimidating when you’ve got back-up.

On the other hand, you may get a feel for what the university is really like if you’re on your own. If you do decide to bring your parents along, you could perhaps decide things in advance - such as who will ask the questions, what you plan on doing and seeing, and if you want some time to wonder around independantly.

Ask questions

At the majority of open days, you’ll have the opportunity to meet a whole range of people, including lecturers, administrators and current students. In order to make the most of this, it’s wise to have a whole bunch of questions prepared in advance so that you don’t forget anything and make the best first impression possible.

Don’t forget, you might end up attending the university; if they’re already thinking of you as well organised, prepared and passionate, that’s going to be helpful in the long run. Also, it’s not just about how you come across to other people; it’s good to actually be all of those things.

Be prepared

Do a tonne of research beforehand; after all, you’re going to be doing a lot of research once you actually get to university, might as well get some practice in now. For example, it’s a good idea to make sure that the university offers the course you’re interested in studying. If you haven’t made your mind up yet, that’s okay too. But if that’s the case, pick a couple of general subject areas to get you started.

Visit those departments, go to some sample lectures if available and pick the one that captures your imagination and attention. It’s important to consider whether you can find a job in that area, but you need to love the subject if you’re going to be studying it for three whole years.

When I first started looking at universities, I was absolutely certain that I wanted to study English literature, but I wanted to keep my options open so I looked at the archaeology and anthropology departments as well. In the end, I studied archaeology and ancient history. I loved every minute of it so it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s okay to change your mind a couple of times before you apply.

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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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