Image of a school group at a university taster day

 by Louise Harbert
, posted On 28 Nov '18
 Masterclasses & Enrichment Officer at the University of Surrey

Introducing subject-specific university taster days

With so much choice available to prospective students, it can be incredibly difficult to choose a course and university – and schools liaison teams are well versed in advising prospective students to research, research, research. Online research is vital and there is very useful information out there. Additionally, there are lots of opportunities for students to get stuck in and take part in a first-hand experience as well – and university taster days are one of them.

University taster days aim to give prospective students a flavour of what university life is like, as well as what the course can offer them. They can range from a few hours to a full day and aim to provide a view into the particular university and what it can offer. Taster day subjects could be anything from Midwifery to Chemical Engineering to Criminology. They are usually free of charge and a whole range of taster days are available to book online through a large number of universities.

Alongside open days and applicant days, these events are an excellent way for students to get a better idea of a subject, university and gain an insight into student life.

‘I enjoyed the day and found it incredibly informative.' 'It was a valuable insight into what life would be like at university, as well as studying the subject’. Student comments like these from one of Surrey’s 2018 taster days really are testament to the value of attending.

Here are just a few ways that university taster days could be beneficial for your students:

They’ll get a feel for what university life is like

We often hear students talk about how a university ‘just felt right’ or how they knew that they would be at home at a particular institution as soon as they stepped on campus. Taster days are a great way for prospective students to try a university on for size and see if they can imagine themselves there. It also helps them judge where the university is in relation to home and get an idea of whether a campus or city university might be for them. Taster days enable students to better understand what studying a subject would be like as an undergraduate, and they’ll also experience the different teaching styles that universities use, such as lectures, workshops or seminars.

Student ambassadors are a very valuable resource for prospective students, as they can offer a first-hand and honest perspective on studying a subject and student life. They are current students at the university and are often involved in taster days – whether facilitating an activity or leading a campus tour. Taster days offer an informal forum for students to find out more about these aspects of university from current students, as well as from staff and academics.

They’ll find out more about a subject and where it could take them

There’s an abundance of subjects available at university level, and taster days allow students to take a subject they are familiar with further - or try something new that they may not have previously considered. If a subject on a taster day is one the student is already studying, they will gain a real insight in to the ‘step up’ at university and what kinds of new areas are covered on a course. On the other hand, a taster day in a new subject is a fantastic chance to expand a student’s subject awareness and find out more about the possibilities of study at university. Either way, students will often learn more about where a subject can take them and gain a deeper understanding of career pathways, including careers they hadn’t previously considered and graduate destinations. Taster days can be very useful in the decision-making process – particularly if a student is torn between two different subject areas.

It’s a chance to add to their UCAS personal statement

A strong UCAS personal statement not only tells us why a student wants to study a particular course, but demonstrates what it is about that subject area they find so interesting. Super-curricular activities show wider subject interest and intellectual curiosity – and universities want to see what a student has done to take their subject further. Any aspect of a relevant topic learned on a taster day that has peaked a student’s interest in that subject is a valuable addition to a personal statement.

It’s a personal development opportunity too

Many taster days are open to applications from individuals, rather than school group bookings. This means that the majority of attendees on a taster day will not know each other – this is a great way for your students to meet likeminded young people and is a representation of what university is like. Alongside meeting new people, students will sometimes travel to the university independently (tackling the tube for the first time alone at rush hour is an achievement in itself!) and experience a new town or city.

Where can schools and students find out about them?

Taster days are available to browse at UniTasterDays (where you're reading this!), the University of London taster courses website and of course the individual institution’s websites as well.

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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