Preparing for an undergraduate open day
If you’re thinking of going to university, an open day is when it starts to get real. It’s your opportunity to get a first-hand snapshot into what it would be like to study, live and socialise at that university, and for you to get a feel for a community that might become your home for three or more years. Here, we’ve gathered a list of advice to help you prepare for an open day.
Before an open day
Research the university’s website
Once you’ve narrowed down the list of universities you would like to attend, it’s time to start browsing their websites and reading through the courses they offer. As you're doing your research, gather plenty of information on rankings, campus pictures, student testimonials and undergraduate degrees, and then compare all the programmes you’re keen on.
When you’ve selected a specific programme, think of whether its modules suit your interests and then move to clubs and societies you might be interested in joining, as well as study abroad programs and accommodation options. Giving yourself a full picture of what to expect at each university will allow you to pick which one suits you best.
Now that you’ve done the research, have a look at the university’s map and find out the distance between each venue. Most universities send a detailed timetable to potential students a few days before the open day, highlighting all the events happening, including faculty talks, workshops and campus tours, as well as information on transportation options.
You might want to print out the timetable and keep it with you on the day so that you have a piece of paper to refer back to and can easily keep track of the talks you’re interested in attending.
Prepare some important questions to ask
Make sure you start thinking about questions you might want to ask staff and students, and find out if there are any specific parts of the university you want to see. This way, you will arrive at the open day prepared and ready to get the most out of it. You’ll be investing a lot of money into your degree, so it’s important to get any pressing questions answered before you start your academic journey.
To make the most out of your open day, here are some questions we think you should be getting the answers to while you're visiting potential universities.
- What’s different about this course?
- Where am I going to be living?
- How’s student life on campus?
- What support am I going to get?
On the day
Arrive with plenty of time to spare
An important thing to keep in mind when attending any open day is timing. Ensure that you arrive at the original time stated, or even a little bit before so you can find out where you’re supposed to be. There will be lots of activities for you to take part in to find out more about the university and your course, so it’s good to arrive with plenty of time to fit them in. With that in mind, make sure you check train times, parking options and how long it will take in total beforehand, so you don’t have to worry about it on the day.
Speak to staff and student ambassadors
One way of getting your questions answered, as well as hearing about the university experience, is by speaking to the staff and students from the university. It’s likely that student ambassadors will be delivering your campus and accommodation tours, and will welcome any questions or queries.
The staff may be present at the open day, and could be delivering your programme talks, so any time before or after may be a convenient period to ask any burning questions. Student ambassadors and staff will be more than happy to help, and are there to enhance your open day experience.
Attend programme talks
The most important reason for attending university is to study a course that you know you will enjoy, as you'll be dedicating your time to it for three or more years! A vital aspect of attending open days is to find out the key features of your course at that university, as these features may vary across different universities.
Programme talks give you a chance to find out about all the key features of your chosen course, including the lecturers, contact hours, modules studied, and assessment methods. All of these aspects are extremely important, and can make or break the course you choose to study.
Find out where you might be living
The main selling points for many who attend open days are the campus, the facilities and the surroundings. Luckily, many universities organise campus tours at their open days, so that you get a chance to see all of those things. It’s important to look out for little things that will make your university experience easier - are there good public transport links? Are there places to grab a coffee during a long shift in the library? Is there a good security and support team available at the university in case you have any issues?
After an open day
Ask yourself if it feels right
Picture yourself in the middle of campus, and think about whether you see yourself among the students around you. Is it a positive feeling? Or do you feel rather out of place? That’s why attending an open day is extremely important while you are in the process of choosing a university, it allows you to really immerse yourself into the community and take a look at campus life much closely.
Gather your thoughts when you go back home
When you get back home, take a moment to gather your thoughts and collect the most relevant information you learned from staff, professors and student ambassadors. Talk about the campus with your family, make a list of pros and cons and read through the notes you've made from subject talks. If you forgot to ask something, don’t worry! Remember that you can always contact the university for more information or sign up for another campus tour before you make your final decision.
Choosing the right university is probably one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make, but also one of the most exciting. As you are scrolling through the website of what seems to be the perfect university while trying to figure out the degree that suits you the most, find out whether you're able to attend one of the open days and sign up right away!
Come and take a look around St Mary's campus