Making the most of university open days

Open days are a great way to gain a deeper insight into universities and help you to narrow down your choices. You will get a feel for the campuses/accommodation, meet other students/applicants and learn more about the course that you have applied for.

Open days take place throughout the year, with many on weekends and some during the week. To make the most out of them, you need to plan and prepare ahead.

Here are my tips to help you to make the most of open days.

Make a plan

Make sure you plan the practicalities. Take a note of the university’s address and contact details, and a copy of bus timetables or train times. If you’re travelling by car check the parking arrangements. Aim to arrive at the start of the event rather than part-way through. You’re likely to need more time than you think to explore properly.

Map it out

The university will send you a timetable of talks and a campus map – use these to plan out your day, highlighting the areas you want to visit. Your priority should be your course or subject talk as this is your main reason for going to university.

Accommodation

If you are planning to live away from home while at university, try to visit the student accommodation.  You may also like to get a feel for the city, especially if you haven’t visited it before.

Research

It may seem obvious that you should research the university before an open day, but how do you tackle this?  Firstly, browse the university and Students’ Union websites as they contain a range of information about the university.  Make a note of anything that you would like to find out more about at the Open Day.

Search for the university course on the UCAS website  as it will give you more information about it.  You may find you have questions about the criteria/UCAS tariff system, which the course leaders can answer at the open day.

Order the university’s prospectus before the open day and read through the relevant sections.  Most prospectuses include a page with key facts about your course.  This may answer some of your existing questions or even be a springboard for further questions that you can ask at the open day.

Prepare questions

Open days are a good opportunity for you to ask questions about different aspects of the university – course, campus, Students’ Union, accommodation, facilities, societies.  Make a list of questions and categorise them under subheadings. This will help you on the day when speaking to different people.  Write shorthand/bullet point answers to your questions.  Although you may think that you’ll be able to remember them, you will be overloaded with information throughout the day, so it is best to make a note of them.

Network

This is your opportunity to tap into the lecturers’ knowledge and current students’ experiences. You might also meet potential students who will be on your course. Talk to others and learn more about their perspective, experience and knowledge of the university.

Literature

You will be bombarded with different forms of literature throughout the day: leaflets, prospectuses, maps, fact sheets and many more!  Take any literature handed to you as it could be useful later on.

After the open day

Make some time in the days after the open day to digest the information, go over the answers to your questions and read through the literature.  You need to reflect on your experience and decide if this is the university for you.

If you have further questions, you can always contact the university by calling or emailing the Admissions team or course leader.
People will tell you that you will know which university is the right one for you once you get a feel for it.  It’s a cliché, but I can honestly say that it’s true. After going to different open days at various universities, you will know when you attend the one which is right for you.

I’ve been to many open days and worked at them as a University of Derby Outreach Mentor. They’re busy and eventful, but can also be great fun, so remember to enjoy them.

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