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Getting the most out of higher education conventions

The 2015 season of UCAS Higher Education Conventions (HEC) has just got under way and universities and colleges from across the country will be visiting an event near you soon. An HEC is a great place for your students to find out more about the nearly 50,000 courses offered at about 300 higher education providers across the UK.

The events, can, however be a little frantic. There are free bags and pens everywhere and often in excess of 100 stands to visit, sometimes in only an hour. For students to make the most of the most of the day, we’ve put together some top tips.

Before the day

Organise an assembly or session for students attending to brief them on what to expect. Students should be encouraged to research which universities are attending and consider if there are any they are particularly keen to speak to. Directing them to the course finder on is the best place to start.

It’s also worth encouraging students to take a good bag, a bottle of water and to wear a comfy pair of shoes – there’s always lots of walking!

From an organisational point of view, students now need to be individually registered to attend the event so do check that this has been completed.

On the day

Remind students of what the event is all about and encourage them to talk to a range of institutions and to collect prospectuses and relevant information – it’s not just about the free pens! Many universities will also email or post subject-specific guides so encourage students to consider which email address they’ll be using for their university contacts.

[EDITOR’S NOTE – I’ve met teenagers with some flamboyant, even outrageous-sounding email addresses. This might be a good time for them to consider having an email address they can use with people they are trying to impress.]

As well as universities and colleges, UCAS and Student Finance England usually have a stand so it’s well worth popping over to visit these areas.

If attending yourself, do have an explore and see the latest courses and updates that universities have to share.

Many events also have teacher and advisers lounges which can be great for networking.
Plan to attend a seminar. Many events run a series of talks including subject specific sessions and talks about applying to university and student finance so do allow time for students to visit these.

After the event

Organise a follow-up assembly or form session to encourage students to look over the materials they have collected. This will hopefully help them narrow down their choices a little to a shortlist for visiting over the summer at open days.
Students will start to receive email and details from the universities they are interested in – do encourage them to look at summer schools and tasters from these places.

UCAS HEC can be a great start in engaging your students with the university process and kick start an HE preparation programme. But to ensure students get the most from these frantic events, a little preparation really can help.

We look forward to seeing you at an event soon.

Posted by Roshan Walkerley on Mon, 30 Jan 2017

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Roshan is part of the Higher Education Advisory Team at the University of East Anglia, focused on working with schools and colleges in Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire as well as European schools. He frequently travels and organises visits for school groups allowing their students to experience campus life and the city of Norwich first-hand. Roshan graduated in MSci Environmental Sciences, during which he completed a semester abroad at Macquarie University in Sydney, worked as a Schools Liaison Ambassador, and served as part-time Officer at his Student Union.

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