Trying to decide what university to go to, and then what course you want to do, is not an easy decision. To help you along the way, universities host great big open days. These aim to give you a feeling for the campus, the lectures, and even the course and accommodation. But how can you make the most out of an open day? We’re here to provide some university open day tips to make sure you make the most out of an open day.
1. Be prepared
Most universities will release the schedules for the open days a few weeks in advance. This allows you to plan when to get there, but also the order in which to look around. If you know that you really want to check out the accommodation, but the only tour of it that won’t clash is first thing, plan around that. This will also help you use all your time on the campus or at the uni effectively.
2. Take the right stuff
Pack a bag and take it with you. You’re likely to want to write things down, so a notepad and pen (or a phone with a good notes app) is a must. Make sure there’s room in your bag for any leaflets and info packages you get given and take pictures wherever you are allowed to. You might also want to take some water or drinks with you, as open days can be quite long, and not all universities have easy access to refreshments!
3. Go to as many places as possible
It sounds like a given, but using the forward planning we mentioned earlier, try and make sure you see as much of the campus as possible. If you’re going to spend several years studying there, you don’t want any nasty surprises. This also counts for talks, go to everything you can – even if it seems like it might be boring. The accommodation talk might seem self-explanatory, but they might give you one bit of information that helps you decide whether or not to apply.
4. Speak to students as well as staff
Universities hire students to stand around campus and answer any questions you might have. Whether you’re not sure where the building your next talk is, or whether you want the low down on the best library on campus – ask these guys. They’re likely to be less biased than the lecturers or other faculty and will know what sort of answer you’re looking for, as they’ve been in your shoes.
5. Ask as many questions as you possibly can
On that note, don’t just ask the students. At every stand, talk and tour, make sure you ask any question that comes to mind – even if you think it’s an odd one. The purpose of these days is to provide you with enough information to make an educated decision about where to spend the next 3 years of your life – so get as much information out of it as possible.
Some of the best questions to ask might include:
- “Are there any placements or study abroad on offer, and can you tell me about them?”
- “What opportunities are there for me to enhance my learning?”
- “How many hours of contact time will I have each week?”
- “Am I guaranteed a place in halls? If not, what other accommodation is available off-campus?”
- “How big are the rooms? Do they vary in size?”
- “What does the rent cover, and how much is it?”
6. Sign up for any exclusive talks
Some of the talks at open days require you to put your name and email down. This is to gauge how many people will be attending, as some lecture halls and other spaces have limited capacity. Don’t let this scare you away, and make sure you do sign up for any of the exclusive talks that will benefit you. More often than not, course-related talks have this feature, and are also some of the most useful activities on an open day!
7. Check out the facilities
This doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. It does sort of depend on what courses you’re interested in. For those studying things like Primary Education, for example, this is less relevant. However, if you’re looking to study a course which requires a certain facility (i.e sciences, IT, English, sport, media, art), make sure you use the time to check out the facilities. If the university has promised a ‘state of the art’ this, or a ‘high end’ that, go and visit. That way you’ll know where they are on campus, you’ll get to compare the facilities to other universities, and also to what you’ve used in the past!
8. Try out the local public transport
Even if your parents are happy to drive you to and from the open day, suggest to them that you park in the city centre, or better yet, get the train. This will give you an idea of what it will actually be like to live and study at the university, as after first year you’ll likely have to live off-campus. It also helps you figure out how much money it will cost you to go food shopping, on nights out, etc. and how long that will take!
9. Time your walks around campus
Similarly, whilst walking around campus, time your walks. Whilst this sounds odd, it could be the difference between a lie in and being sat waiting before a lecture come September. Figure out how far from your course building the accommodation is, and if there are options, maybe weigh up which accommodation you’d like based on that. If you’re someone who likes their sleep, apply for the halls closest to your lectures, for example!
10. Check out the shops and cafes on campus
Finally, as important as checking out the library and student accommodation is, make sure you also visit any of the shops or cafes on campus. Learn where they are, what the prices are like, what they do and don’t stock – that way, if you’re there come September, you won’t be in for a nasty surprise when your frappucino costs £5.