How to make the most of University open days

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 12:00 AM

Going to see your preferred universities on one of their open days is something that should be top of your ‘to do’ list when it comes to making your final uni choices. You may think that you have gleaned all the information you need by looking on the Internet, getting the low down from The Student Room or chatting to friends, but none of that will give you the insights that you can pick up from actually visiting your chosen institutions, and don’t forget – you’ll just have seen the uni’s own ‘marketing’. You need to see the real thing!


When you go to a university open day, you should put lots of thought into what you want to get out of it. Perhaps make a checklist and give each item a score out of ten so that if you are visiting three or four universities you can clearly see where your preference lies.  Engage with your surroundings when you get there, and ask the students who show you around and the tutors you meet lots of questions  You are going to spend at least three years of your life at this place, and spend a large slice of cash getting there, so it has to be the right uni for YOU (don’t let friends persuade you otherwise!).


Before you go:

  • The COURSE is the most important item. If the course is not quite what you want to do, then that uni should NOT be on your list.
  • DISTANCE from home can be an important consideration. If you live in Cornwall and are looking at Lancaster Uni, for example, think about how getting home and back again will affect your life.
  • CAMPUS or TOWN? Both have their merits – which would you prefer? If you can, download a map before your open day.
  • Do the universities on your list match your extra-curricula INTERESTS? Are you sporty, musical or artistic? Do these universities have clubs and societies that match your hobbies? If you play an instrument is there an orchestra you can join?


On the Open Day itself:

  • Chat to the tutors and students about what the course entails. Is it examined or assessed? How many lectures and seminars will you go to per week? How big are the tutorial groups? Is there an opportunity to study abroad? Can you do a single or joint honours? How long is the reading list?
  • If you have any questions relating to your UCAS application – now’s the time to ask.
  • Go to a lecture for your course if you can.
  • Go for a good walk around the college or campus and visit other parts other than your subject building.
  • Look at the library and see what system they have for lending out key books.
  • Check out the Student Union and look for clubs and societies that you are interested in joining.
  • What’s the bar(s) like?
  • Is there a good music scene?
  • How big is the sports hall?
  • Is there a supermarket on campus? How far is the nearest town? Can you have a car there? Is there free parking?
  • Accommodation: make sure that you see a good range of the accommodation on offer and not just their ‘show rooms’. Ask about whether you have to live in halls or off-site accommodation. When and how do you apply for the various halls of residence?
  • Make notes and take photos so you can remember key places later.
  • Wear comfy shoes!
  • Chat to the other people also attending the open day – they’re in the same position as you, and you may be spending the next three years with them!


And don’t forget, they are also looking at YOU! If you take your parents with you, make sure that it’s YOU that does the talking. If you want to make an impression with the tutors then talk to them, perhaps, about what interests you particularly about the course, and don’t ask them stuff you can get from the students themselves.


At the end of the open day as you leave the uni think about your impressions: could you imagine yourself being an undergraduate there? Did you like the vibe? Were the students and tutors friendly? Did the discussions about the course enlighten you? 


Don’t think about what your friends are doing or where they are going. You are guaranteed to make new friends wherever you end up. This is YOUR life and your choice. Listen to parents and friends of course, as they know you and can offer valuable advice, but at the end of the day only YOU can know what is right or wrong for you.



Useful links - for info on uni open days

Which Magazine have a good list of questions to ask


Good points on making an impression in The Guardian


The Student Room is a great resource


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