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How to visit a university

The deadline for applying for most UK university courses is 15 January. It seems like a long way away, but there are two fundamental choices for an applicant to finalise by then: what they want to study, and where.

Pupils will have had opportunities to visit universities earlier in the calendar year, during spring and summer open days, and will probably have a sense of whether a given place and department will be right for them.

The UCAS website has an open day finder, and a downloadable guide to getting the most out of open days.

On the back of these open days, the prospective students may have cemented their choices – or they may be less certain than before.

How else, then, can young people find out where they want to be for the next few years , and what they want to spend them studying?

Increasingly, universities offer guided tours all-year-round. When these are during term time, you may find that you don’t get to see the accommodation or the teaching areas. And while these are perhaps two of the things you would want to see most, it is nevertheless possible to get a sense of what life and study will be like at any given institution with a term-time tour. They will likely be led by students, so visitors can get a good picture of real life at the uni.

You may need to book a place on one of these tours. Look at the university’s website for information about tours, or call the admissions office.

Also – whisper it – you can simply turn up on campus and wander around, doing some guerilla research to get a completely unvarnished picture of what the university is really like, as some of these students did.

This Student Room thread reveals that it is probably best, after all, to get in touch with the university beforehand to make sure it’s okay to visit.

There are other ways to see what goes on at any given university. There will be gigs and arts events, talks and seminars open to the public, celebrations, demonstrations and all manner of other activities for the whole community going on.

There may be taster courses, so pupils can dip their toes in before committing to doing a degree.

However a prospective student chooses to visit, and whether they do so with the help of their school/college, or on their own initiative, there are many important questions to ask and things to find out about the place.

The UCAS Open Up! guide gives a great checklist of these, and should be in the pocket of every teenager who visits a university.

Also remember:

  • A notepad and pen
  • Any examples of work you’ve been asked to take
  • The name and contact details of anyone you are supposed to meet, or want to look up
  • Money, travelcards, emergency contact numbers.

It’s hard to over-stress how important it is to get to a uni and see it for yourself. But if you absolutely can’t, UCAS runs around 50 conferences around the UK each year where the universities and colleges come to a venue near you. Find out more about these here:

Posted by Nicholas Manthorpe on Tue, 31 Jan 2017

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Nick was a reporter for the Eastern Daily Press and its sister weekly titles in Norfolk and Waveney, then served as Media Officer for North Norfolk District Council for 13 years. He now works as a writer and PR and media relations consultant. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, an associate member of the Chartered Management Institute and a member of East Anglian Writers.

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