Tips for families attending Uni Open Days

Nov 14, 2017, by Jemma

Going to university is a big decision, so it's only natural for the people who love you the most want to be part of this journey and that means - open days! Your family will be wanting to make sure you're selecting the university for all the right reasons, not just tagging along to cramp your style. So how can you all work together and make the most of university open days as a family? We spotted a family duo, Mark (Dad) and Phoebe (Daughter) who have shared their top tips for you to crack university open days together. 


Before the open day:


  • Do your research (and do this together).  What subject/course are you looking for?  Are there any specific requirements that you have for it (e.g. a professional accreditation)?  Where does the University you are considering rank for that subject?  What are the entry requirements (and are you projected to attain them?)
  • Get the University prospectus, the open day pack, anything and everything that the Uni offers to help you prepare.  Most importantly, check what open day talks you want to attend… What time are they?  Where are they located?  Is there a campus tour (including halls of residence)?  Where can you get food?
  • What is the location like?  Check online to see what the town/city is like.  What are the transport links?  What does the local area offer that might be of interest to you?  How long will it take you to get there?  Is there a park and ride service for the open day?
  • If you require accessibility assistance, or support in any other way during your visit, ensure that you contact the uni to book this well in advance of the open day.


During the open day: 


  • Always leave plenty of time to travel… You never know what delays you might encounter so don’t book the last ‘subject talk’ of the day and then leave it to the last minute to travel.
  • Use the ‘park and ride’ service if there is one… It makes for a much less stressful journey in, as they are much better signposted, easier to get to, and to park at.
  • It seems an obvious point, but you’d be surprised… Wear sensible shoes!  The number of people we’ve seen doing the campus/town walk struggling along slippery wet cobbled pavements/streets in the rain, wearing heels, is extraordinary!  It’s usually colder than you think it might be too!
  • Make sure you allow enough time, and have planned your day, to include subject talks, campus tour (including accommodation), opportunities for discussions, somewhere to eat, and a chance to look around the area.
  • Chat to the subject staff, both after the subject talk as any questions are still in your mind, but also at the stand that they will have for their subject.  Talk to students too…  Not just the ‘tame’ ones the subject department have seconded to their stand, but the ones that show you around, the ones that serve the food, etc.  Try to get a full picture of life at the university.
  • Take notes!  Take lots of notes!  You’ll need to look back at everything and after five uni open days you’ll lose track of what you saw where, who said what, etc!
  • Tell people where you are… Use social media to show what uni you are visiting… Someone might have an experience of that uni to share with you! (Use the uni profile name in your Tweet etc.)
  • Remember that most uni’s have several open days.  If you attend an earlier one in the year, you’ve still got the opportunity to go back again if you liked what you saw but wanted to see/ask more.


After the open day:


  • On the journey home, debrief each other on what you thought of the uni.  First impressions are important and should be captured.  What was good about it?  What wasn’t so good?  How does it ‘rank’ compared to those seen already?
  • Write up the notes/fill in any gaps.  Keep all the notes, prospectus info, open day info etc. together so you can review it.
  • If you have questions that you weren’t able to ask (or only thought of on the way home), is there another open day for that uni?  Or a contact point for further information?
  • Has anyone else you know visited the same university?  Swap notes, thoughts, impressions…  You may have picked up on something they didn’t, or vice-versa.
  • Think of those key/specific requirements that you came up with in the ‘Preparation’ section above.  How many of them did the uni meet well?  Draw up a scoring table for these and other criteria e.g. impression of the campus, facilities, accommodation, the town/city itself etc.  Use this to help you rank the uni’s you’ve visited.
  • Finally, if you choose a university and are offered a provisional place, you will be invited back in the spring for another visit… Time to start planning for that too! 


We hope these ideas will help you to navigate a successful path through what otherwise can be a bewildering and confusing process. We wish you all the very best with your uni and subject choices!


Mark (Dad) & Phoebe (Daughter)


Mark and Phoebe live in Bournemouth and have clocked up over 800 miles visiting the University of Portsmouth, University of Plymouth, University of Leicester and the University of Winchester (Phoebe did this one without dad but with her school). Phoebe is interested in studying Psychology in 2018 or may take a gap year and start in 2019. You can follow Dad on Twitter: @Mark_J_Arnold