University open days are an opportunity for you to see what your life as a student for the next four years could be like at your chosen university.
Open days are an important step in your application because they give you a 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 deem 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.
Every student has different priorities when it comes to their university choice – something that ticks all your boxes might be the polar opposite for someone else.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing measures put in the place by the UK Government, all university open days until at least August have been called off. This puts 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.
Introducing virtual university open days
With the lockdown measures in place, you unfortunately cannot visit the universities you like.
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.
Here are the kind of things you can expect to see through virtual university open days;
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, the gardens and other notable features of that particular college or building. You can have a look for yourself by following this link: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/colleges/college-virtual-tours?wssl=1
General tips and questions you should ask at university open days
Shortlist – 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!
Talks and tours – every aspect of the university isn’t going to be relevant for you. You should register for the talks and tours about your subject or department by registering your interest for an open day. 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.
Think of questions – it’s useful to have a batch of questions that you 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?
Cost – 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?
Teaching – 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 less 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.
The nitty gritty – 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 that you can’t visit the universities as other application cycles have been able to do, it’s important to remember that every student applying this year has the same problem.
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 virtual open days have presented to help you make an informed decision about something that will affect your future in a major way.
Already know which university you want to apply for?
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