Having now attended several university open days, I have gained some experience in how to make the most of them. They are super valuable in making your choice about which course to do and where to study it. Even if you come away from the university having decided not to go there, you’ve still learned something, and got a day trip out of it.
The first thing I want to stress about open days is get there early so you can sort yourself out. Most open days kick off at 9am, but you almost certainly won’t have to be there at that time, or be there the whole day: you just turn up and leave again whenever suits you best. If the university is really far away from you, I would suggest staying overnight, either in a hotel in the city or maybe a B&B further out of the town, whatever is best for you. You do need to think about parking though, so if possible use public transport as parking in inner cities is severely limited. Some universities offer a park and ride service which is usually free.
This ties in with my second tip: make sure you know where you’re going! If you’re driving, print off some directions and make sure you take a map just in case, or if you’re going by train, make sure you know if you have any changes, and which station you need to get off at; most cities have numerous train stations. There will also be maps of the university sent to you; some might come in the post but usually a link to a guide will be sent you via email. Use this to decide where you’re going once you get to the university – which building is your talk in? Do you need to register, and if so, where? That’s why it’s worth getting there early, so you have time to figure out where to go without worrying about missing your subject talk, which I will talk about in a minute.
If you get stuck or lost, there should be a student ambassador nearby to help you out – they’ll be at train stations to point you in the right direction, as well as all over campus and in the buildings themselves.
Now, this is one of the most important things: prioritise your subject talk! As I said before, the whole point of attending an open day is to go and learn more about the course you’re interested in studying, and ask questions. Make sure you attend your subject talk, and don’t worry about missing other presentations throughout the day. Besides, if you’re planning on attending other open days, most universities give general talks to do with finance and accommodation etc. which are generally the same for most institutions, so if you don’t make these talks at one university, you probably will be able to at another open day. Also, remember to ask questions; it is far easier to ask questions in person rather than via emails or something. There are tonnes of student ambassadors around to ask questions, whether it’s specific to your subject at the talk, or about the university in general. It’s probably worth preparing some in advance if you tend to go blank when you’re put on the spot.
I also really recommend looking at as much accommodation as possible. Some uni’s will have more open to look round than others, but there is so much to consider, so it’s worth looking at as many as possible. Many halls have similar prices but can be completely different in terms of cleanliness/size/location etc. Some flats house more people than others, so you need to think about how many people you’re going to be sharing a kitchen/living room with and a bathroom if you’re not going for an en suite. You also need to consider how far away the halls are from the campus you’ll be attending; will you need to spend money on transport or is it a walkable distance?
Lastly, you need to think about employability prospects. Some universities are really geared towards getting their graduates into full time jobs, and try and make you as employable as possible by offering placements and employment modules. Another thing to think about is, is the course accredited? For me, looking at biomedical sciences, some courses are accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) or the HCPC, which can then help you get employed once you’ve graduated. This may not be relevant for all courses, but it’s worth asking about.
I think I’ve covered the most important stuff, but also remember to have fun! It’s really exciting to visit new cities and have a day trip out, whether the university is what you’re looking for or not. So, enjoy your open days, and best of luck for the rest of the process!