University open days are the best opportunity to see what your life as a student will be like.
Open days are an important step in your application because they give you the chance to get a feel for the university. While university websites and prospectus’ do give you information about the university and the courses they offer, the information is often limited to what the university deems to be important to applicants.
By going to an open day, you are able to glean the information that isn’t so easy to put down on paper and ask current students and tutors questions that might crop up in your mind.
You get a chance to see how easy the city or campus is to get around; you’ll get a feel of what the lecture theatres are like; how far away your accommodation is from university buildings; the culture of the university; the societies you could join and much more.
The COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing measures put in the place by the UK Government resulted in closures of university open days. This put students in a difficult position as they have to make a decision about where they’d like to spend the next few years of their lives and invest thousands of pounds, without having seen the university through their own eyes.
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What is a University Virtual Open Day?
They’re the next best thing without being able to physically visit a university. Although you won’t be able to check out the nice breakfast places near your potential accommodation, you will still be able to find out a lot about the university.
What to expect during a university virtual open day:
For example, the University of Oxford has virtual tours available of many of the colleges. Through the virtual tours of the colleges, you can check out the accommodation, dining hall, gardens and other notable features of that particular college or building.
Questions to ask at virtual university open days
Unlike your UCAS options, you aren’t limited when it comes to open days. With over 100 universities to choose from in the UK, you aren’t going to be able to visit them all. You need to shortlist which universities offer your course, have achievable entry requirements and are located somewhere you wouldn’t mind living. We’d recommend shortlisting 10-15 universities for virtual open days. As you don’t actually have to travel down, you can widen your net and see more universities than you normally could!
Every aspect of the university isn’t going to be relevant for you. You should only register for the talks and tours about your subject or department. You’ll be given access to talks provided by the university, and you will be able to ask questions that crop up in your mind whilst watching.
It’s useful to have a batch of questions that you can ask or find out about each university you are considering. By doing this, you are able to compare the universities side-by-side rather than having fragmented information about all of them individually. If you are keen on a strong social experience at university, why not ask about the nightlife to current students?
It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of it all and forget about the basics. Is it an expensive city to live in? Are train tickets expensive to go back home? Is it going to cost you a minimum of £5 for a drink in a pub? By asking and thinking about these types of questions, you’ll begin to get a better understanding of what your life at that university would be like. Many students in London need to get part time jobs as the cost of living is higher – is this something you would be willing to do?
This is an important one as it’s the reason you’re going! What is the teaching style like? Do staff and students have a good rapport with each other? How easy is it to contact your tutors and how willing are they to help students? Some universities have fewer contact hours and rely more on students studying outside of scheduled hours. Think about what kind of support would work best for you and factor that into your final decision.
You’ll be spending a lot of your free time studying. Is the university library open 7 days a week? How many weeks of the year are covered by the accommodation contract? How much support can the university give you to help with post-graduation job prospects or work experience? What is travel around the city like for a student?
What are you waiting for? Go and register for virtual open days!
While it isn’t ideal, it’s important to remember that every student applying this year has the same problem of not being able to visit the university. It may be possible to visit your university of choice later in the year… but it’s not guaranteed. We, at UniAdmissions, would recommend you take the opportunity that virtual open days have presented to help you make an informed decision about something that will affect your future in a major way.
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