University Open Days are held by virtually every university and college teaching degrees. Each institution provides one or more Open Days a year (see calendar of 2019 Open Days). They are major events, with talks, lectures, displays, etc all intended to give a positive impression of life and study.
Students go on ‘pre-application’ Open Day visits to help them decide which universities to name on the UCAS form and , once they have applied, have the option of ‘post-application’ Open Days to decide which universities to accept offers from.
Benefits of university Open Days
University Open Days provide an opportunity to find out what a university, and its surrounding area, is like. However much reading or online research you do, there’s nothing quite like a visit to give that extra dimension to your choice process. You get a chance to look at more, to get questions answered face-to-face and to meet people who are actually studying there.
Problems with university Open Days
University Open Days are marketing events. Universities want lots of applications (especially from overseas students who pay higher fees), so they will present everything in the best possible light. That’s understandable, but from your perspective it means that you should treat Open Days as you would a street market or a profile on a dating app: question and inspect. Don’t take anyone or anything at face value.
There’s also the actual cost of attending university Open Days. You will need to get there, which will cost you money for travel. But you should also recognise that the visit will cost you time. If the Open Day is during holidays (and many are) you lose a day you might not have done anything else with. But if you go in term time (even on a week-end) you lose valuable study time. Going to several Open Days during term time could have a serious impact on your studies.
How many university Open Days to go to?
It is tempting to visit all the universities you might apply to – you understandably want to make the best decisions you can. But that will take a great deal of time of time, so you need to be really selective. Do as much research online as you can before deciding on a short-list of universities to visit, and only attend the Open Days of universities that you are seriously considering and which you have a reasonable chance of getting into. If you are going to miss classes do make sure you have cleared this in advance with your teachers and that you catch up the work when you get back!
Plan your visit. The university will have a timetable on their website. They will want you to see their institution at their best. They will be paying hundreds of people to look after you and show you around. Do not feel that you have to do what they suggest. You decide what will be most useful to you.
Before you go, download a copy of the course details from the university website, so that you can read this as you travel to the university. And print out a map of both the campus and the city so that if your phone battery dies you can still find your way around.
Before you arrive write down the questions for which you need answers. These are going to vary enormously depending on your course, the university and your situation. Some questions to think about the place you will spend at least three important years of your life.
- What is the course really like?
- Where is the student accommodation? Often on university Open Days you will be shown the most beautiful parts of the city. However, is that where most of the student accommodation is?
- What’s the surrounding area like – you won’t be spending all your time on campus, and may well move out of university accommodation after the first year?
- How easy is this place to get to from home? You may wish to get away from carers / parents – but you will also possibly be dependent on them for transporting your kit. How long will this take from home? For international students how close is the local airport? Do flights from there go to your home country? If so, how often?
Travelling around the UK can be expensive, so get your travel plans sorted well in advance to take advantage of any lower fares. And don’t forget that university Open Days expect you to book a place in advance.
Sometimes people want to go to university Open Days with friends and/or loved ones. However, you will almost definitely go to university alone. Going to an Open Day alone can be a useful preparation for this. Planning your visit alone will also help you decide what is important to you.
(article adapted from CIFE.org.uk)