The trick to a successful university open day is effective preparation.
Preparation is key to make the most of your university open day, especially if you start early. It will give you the chance to book all of the open days you would like to attend and paint a better picture of what it will be like to study at the university. This can all be achieved by asking questions to students and staff and exploring the town or city.
It is difficult to know how to prepare for an open day so we have gathered some tips and useful information to help you get the most out of your university open days.
Book your university open day place in advance
University open days can be held throughout the year but are mostly during the summer. This is great for you as a student because you do not always need to take time off school or out of your precious term time weekends. However, this creates a new difficulty because now your dream university’s open day clashes with your holiday in the Alps or your family camping trip to Scotland.
Planning and booking your open days in advance will save you the trouble of clashing dates. Also, university open day spaces are usually filled quickly so you need to book them quickly. The importance of visiting the university is paramount so ensure you research and book the dates earlier on in the year. Websites like opendays.com and UCAS Open Day Search Tool list the university open day key dates.
Don’t forget to contact the university if you have any special requirements or disabilities so that the university has time to make any arrangements you need.
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Plan your travel to the university open day
Planning for yourself is key but planning for others is also necessary. Asking your parents to drive from Bristol to Edinburgh University next week is not going to land you in their good books.
When booking your place on an open day, take a look at how you can travel to the university. Take into consideration how far away the university is from the station, if there are parking spaces available and if you will need to take time off school to travel there. You may also need to stay overnight. If you cannot drive there, pre-booking transport will likely save you some money, especially if you purchase a Young Persons Railcard.
Travelling to open days can be expensive and this should not stop you from attending one. Most universities do offer support for students who experience financial difficulty in attending an Open Day, such as the University of Sheffield bursary or the Imperial Open Day bursary. If you require financial assistance to attend an Open Day, it’s worth searching Google to see if the university you are applying to offers support. You will find that they often do.
Get to grips with the university open day schedule
The university will usually email you their open day schedule a week or two before the day. Take your time looking at the map provided to know where you need to visit, such as the main introductory talk and subject-specific talks for your degree. Make sure you write down any important information you learn from the talks, this will help when it comes to decision making later on.
If you are attending a virtual open day, then having a map with you is a great way to develop an idea of what the campus is like. For more information on virtual open day preparation, we have a guide on how to utilise virtual open days.
Some Medicine open days have drop-in sessions where you can see the wards first-hand and the teaching environment you will be studying in. Sometimes, these drop-in sessions require registration before the open day so bear this in mind during your preparation. Also, make sure to register for student halls tours to see where you might be living in your first year.
The university campus is not the only thing to consider when going for an open day, plan some time for exploring the town or city to get an idea of what it could be like living there and if it is right for you.
Plan your university open day questions
One of the best ways to make the most of a university open day is by asking questions to university students and staff. We have split the question categories into 6 main areas. These questions are covered in more detail in our questions to ask at an Economics open day article.
Qualifications questions find out the information that may not be displayed on the university’s website, such as which school subjects do Admissions Tutors prefer and is it possible to still study the degree if you do not meet the required grades. Here are three questions you could ask:
Current Student Questions
Questions to current students will give you an honest overview of the university and student life. This is a great opportunity to ask those who are already there for the good and bad things about the university. These questions should help you find out some more in-depth information about the university:
Career Prospects Questions
Career prospects questions will paint a picture of your future opportunities and pathways. Find out what career guidance support the university has for their students and the areas of work students tend to go into when graduating. Ask these career prospects questions:
Degree questions are used to find out more about your next years of study. Ask what modules you will be studying, what the teaching methods are like and the types of assessments they use, to help you figure out if this teaching and assessment style is right for you. You could ask the following questions:
Application questions will help you to understand the admissions process in more detail. Universities use Admissions Tests in different ways and place more importance on different areas of your application. For example, some Admissions Tutors may use your Interview as a key indicator of you as a student or your performance in the Admissions Test as evidence of your academic ability. Here are some questions you could ask:
Student Life Questions
Student life questions are important as you will not be spending your whole time studying, even if it feels like that at the start. If you have a particular hobby or love playing a specific sport, find out the facilities the university has or clubs and societies available to continue pursuing what you love doing. Here are some student life questions you could ask:
Prepare to Explore the facilities
Check out the department, sports grounds, the library etc. Also, be sure to go and see the student accommodation. Particularly when it comes to Oxbridge colleges, accommodation can vary massively between colleges. Some blocks will be new and refurbished, while others will be more traditional with dodgy plumbing! Some accommodation will have the option of en-suite rooms while others have a bathroom shared between six.
Another aspect to consider is how far your college/accommodation is from your department.
Some colleges also have off-site accommodation for second/third years, so it’s worth finding out if this is the case and if so, how far it is from the main college or your department. Just remember, this is going to be your home for the next few years, so make sure you will be happy living there.
Again, talk to current students. When I went to see Robinson College on the Cambridge open day, it seemed like ages away from my lecture sites. But after talking to students who told me about a shortcut, I realised it wasn’t as far as I thought. The good thing about the Oxbridge open days is that all the colleges (or at least most) will be open for you to visit on the day. While this is convenient, you can’t expect to go and see every college in one day. So decide beforehand which colleges, in particular, you’d like to explore and find out more about.
Final university open day preparation tips
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