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University Open Days – why bother?

When typing ‘university’ into a well-known search engine, more than 2,740,000,000 results are found. With all of this information available at the click of a button, why should students and their parents/guardians spend a day, weekend or week visiting cities and towns across the UK (and beyond) to attend university Open Days?

Well, there are many reasons and interestingly research conducted by SMRS showed that one of the key reasons why Year 12 students wanted to visit a university was to ‘get a better feel for the university and its location’. This is certainly not something that can be found online!

Also, studying at university should be viewed as a major investment – in both time and money. Would you buy a house without viewing beforehand or purchase a car and not take it for a test drive? It’s pretty unlikely, so visiting universities in advance of applying, should definitely be encouraged to make sure that it’s right for students and that they can see themselves living and studying there for the next three years or more.

6 Top Tips for Open Day Visits

1. Select Open Days to attend

As many schools/colleges only allow students to visit a small number of university Open Days during term time, encourage students to make a list of their top 5-10 universities and courses. There’s a plethora of resources out there and a good place to start students’ research is always the UCAS website. Once they’ve got their list of pros and cons, against each course and university, they can then add the institutions’ Open Day dates which can be found on university websites and (full calendar of most UK university Open Day dates). They can then shortlist which universities they should visit during term time and/or the weekends.

2. Timetable the day

Once students have selected which Open Days to attend, they should then check whether they need to pre-register before attending – online for most institutions. Open Day programmes offer students a wide choice of activities to do on the day. To get the most out of their visit, they should do some pre-event planning and look at the programme if the university has provided one beforehand. If not, students could put together their own timetable, for example:.

08.45 – Register, gather general information and explore campus
09.30 – Attend welcome talk
10.00 – Take a campus tour and view accommodation
11.15 – Attend subject talk/seminar and watch demonstrations
12.15 – Lunch
12.45 – Visit subject area and speak to staff/students
13.15 – Attend finance and accommodation talk
14.00 – Attend student life talk
15.00 – Take bus tour of the campus/city/town where the university is based
16.30 – Go home or into the city/town where the university is based

3. Prepare for all weathers

Students should check the weather forecast for the area to make sure that are prepared.

4. Reclaim travel costs?

Many universities have travel funds that students can access to cover their travel costs when attending Open Days. Students should check whether they qualify by visiting the university’s website.

5. Ask questions

Speaking to academic and admissions staff is vital on the day but more importantly is actually speaking to the current students who are studying at the university. They will give students an honest opinion about what it’s really like to study their course at the university so students should come with a prepared list of questions (on their mobile phones or notepad) that they want to ask, to get the most out of their visit.

6. Read pre-event information!

Finally, it’s important to remind students to check the pre-event information that they have received from universities. Most universities will send students booked to attend confirmation and reminder emails and/or text-messages. These contain useful and often important information such as road closures, etc. It’s important that they check this information in advance of the day in case any changes have been made especially when travelling to somewhere unfamiliar.

With a little thought and pre-planning, students and their families should have a great time attending a university Open Day. By visiting and ‘getting that good feeling’ about the university, this will help students to feel more confident and empowered when submitting their UCAS application and in turn will spurn them on to study harder to get the results that they need to get into their first choice university.

Posted by Laura Anderson on Wed, 8 Feb 2017

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Laura is an Enrichment Officer and organises university taster events for high-achieving students. She also manages the Norfolk Scholars Programme, a joint UEA partnership initiative with Villiers Park Educational Trust. Laura has worked at UEA for six years and graduated from UEA with a First Class BA (Hons) in Business Economics in 2008. She holds two professional qualifications in marketing.

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