It’s the time of year when your personal statement is looming and the pressure is on to make some decisions. If you wanted to, you could probably go to a different uni open day every weekend from now until Easter, seeing the same people at each one, each of you looking more and more drained as the weeks go by.
Choosing the right university is important; with the average cost of tuition fees in the UK being £9,250 per year, you want to make sure you’re making the right decision. But your weekends are precious, and you want to be able to get the most out of each visit without feeling overwhelmed, so we’ve pulled together some tips on how to get the most from uni open days.
Make a shortlist of which universities you want to see; you can narrow it down based on subjects, or universities you’d particularly like to attend, then book a place as soon as possible.
Then have a think about how you’ll get there; is there parking available? Public transport? Is the campus in the middle of a city or on the outskirts? How long will your journey take?
Make sure the dates don’t clash with other open days and get them in your calendar as soon as you’ve decided. Don’t panic if there is a clash, universities often hold more than one open day.
Have a look on the university website to see what talks/tours are available for the courses you’re interested in. You’ll be given a schedule when you arrive, but it’s always good to have a rough plan before you get there.
If you have any access requirements or disabilities, get in touch with the uni to make sure they can accommodate you.
What To See When You’re There
Try to get to a couple of subject talks, maybe a taster session if they offer them, and a department tour. It’s also useful to go to a talk about student finance, as that can feel quite daunting.
While the course is the most important thing to focus on, you also need to get a feel for what it’s like to study, live and socialise there so familiarise yourself with the campus and make sure you check out the library and, of course, the student union. There will probably be information about clubs and societies there too.
You’ll be able to go on a tour of the accommodation and students often have their rooms open for you to look around. This is a great time to have an informal chat with current students about what it’s like on their course, how easy it is to get accommodation, and little things like whether or not you can put things on the walls.
It’s also good to have a walk into town and, if that’s your thing, check out the sports facilities.
Before you go, think about any questions you might want to ask, whether that’s with the lecturers or current students.
For example, how much of your course is exam-based and how much is coursework? Will you need to do a work placement? What did previous students go on to do? Are first years guaranteed university accommodation, and what’s it like studying there?
There are usually plenty of people around, both university staff and students, who are there specifically to talk to people and answer questions, and they’ll be more than happy to chat to you if you’re not the type of person who feels comfortable putting their hand up in a lecture theatre full of strangers.
What To Take
Take a friend or relative with you; it’s your decision at the end of the day and has to feel right for you, but it’s always good to have someone else’s opinion and they might pick up on something you didn’t, or think of questions to ask that you haven’t thought of (and maybe feel more comfortable asking questions).
Take comfortable shoes; there’ll be a lot of walking around so it’s not the time to try those new trainers that you’ve never worn before. Remember to take any details the uni has sent you, with maps, schedules, etc., and a portable charger.
There’ll be water there, and a chance to sample the food, but it’s a good idea to take your own drinks and snacks too.
Most importantly, don’t forget to take a big bag, because one of the best things about uni open days is the freebies! Fridge magnets, stress balls, memory sticks, sweets, pens, and hats; fill your boots!
Try to make notes as you’re going around, they don’t have to be in-depth, just a few comments on your phone so that you can compare the unis you’ve been to; once you’ve been to a couple it’s easy to forget the details. You could be really organised and put it in a document, because who doesn’t love a spreadsheet?
While it’s important to choose the right course, it’s also important to get a feel for the campus, accommodation and the town or city too; after all, this will be your home for the next three years. Some people know pretty much straight away that their university is The One, others need to take more time. Whichever type of student you are, you can’t go wrong if you trust your instincts.
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