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University Open Days – Top tips for making the most of them

Jul 24, 2017, by Jemma

Undergraduate open days are probably the best opportunity you'll have to make the right call about where to study your bachelor degree. You'll be able to explore the campus, experience the facilities, meet students, lecturers, support staff and get a feel for the place where you’ll be spending some of the best years of your life - all the stuff you just can’t get from a university prospectus.

Of course, you'll be feeling nervous (university is a big investment), but remember that the universities are the ones on show, and that they'll be super keen to help you. Bear in mind these top tips for making the most of your upcoming open days.

  • Book & Plan.

It seems obvious to book on to an open day but you’d be surprised how many people rock up on the day. If you don’t book it’s likely you’ll miss pre-event emails about the open day, changes to the schedule and competitions. Most universities will check you in when you arrive, making registration super quick and easy, allowing you to get on with your visit. By registering you’ll receive the open day timetable, which will allow you to plan your day,  pick which sessions you want to attend, which tours you need to book onto, and which workshops you want to participate in. Planning ahead will allow you to get everything you need in just a couple of hours, ensuring you can make the most of your weekend.

  • Questions, questions, questions.

No one is going to tell you off for asking too many questions at an open day. But what on earth do you ask? We’ve come up with a question sheet you can print off at home and which you can use shortlist the questions most relevant to your needs. Spend some time beforehand considering these questions. Think about who would be most suited to answer them, whether professors, university staff or current students. Beyond the academic side of things, think about accommodation, facilities, the application process, and the city/town you’re about to move to. If you can’t get the questions answered on the day, you’ll make contacts with people to follow up with when you’re back home.

  • Plot your journey.

It seems like an obvious point, but a traffic jam on the motorway or a delayed train may see you missing that all important campus tour. You’ll also find that universities aren’t limited to one location, so ensure that you’re going to the right place . Open days are notoriously busy in the mornings, so if you think you can do everything you need in the afternoon, do it! If you’re staying locally and not moving out of home, make the journey like you’re an actual student to see what the daily commute is like. 

  • Talk to students.

Obviously, the best insider info you'll get on what a uni is like will come from the people who study there. Don't just rely on the student ambassadors – pluck up the courage to talk to random students around campus. This is the best way to find out stuff the university is less likely to advertise. Especially try to find someone who's studying on the course that you're thinking of applying for.

At the same time, remember the student ambassadors are there to help. They're often hand-picked for their approachability, and it's their job to answer your questions, so don't be afraid to really pick their brains.

  • Dump mum and dad.

Not literally but the vast majority of you will have family in tow on open day visits ensuring that you’re not about to live in a cave. The question planning we mentioned earlier will come in handy here; make sure you’ve got your parents questions included so they feel comfortable with you taking the lead. If you're naturally shy, it can be tempting to let parents do the talking, but remember that open days are all about you! Your first time on campus can be daunting, but you’ll find the university staff are welcoming and friendly and will want to support you. Park your family in the university café for an hour and explore the campus yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable talking, that’s OK, but allow yourself some time to visually see yourself there.

  • Life outside of campus.

University life won't exclusively be spent on campus. Especially if you're considering living in a big city like London or Birmingham, there’ll be tonnes of stuff happening off site. If you’ve got time, explore the surrounding area, check out  how far away the shopis from student accomodation, and find something to eat at a local restaurant. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to experience all the sights and sounds of the city, but talking to students they’ll give you a good idea about what that’s like.

So there you have it, our top tips for an undergraduate open day – any more you can think of? Let us know!