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Open days: five mistakes to avoid

Heading to a uni open day soon? Don't end up making one of these mistakes...

Open days are a great opportunity to decide if a university is the right fit for you, but can take you outside your comfort zone.

Avoid wishing you'd done things differently at your first open day by dodging these five common mistakes, with advice from members of our sister site The Student Room

You can also use The Student Room's specific university forums to see what current students are saying about what it's really like to study there

1. Don't wear something inappropriate

While there's no need to dress formally (though smart is advisable if you attend a university interview), we'd suggest going for something that gives off a good impression and feels appropriate to the type of event you're attending. 

Think about comfort. Open days usually involve lots of walking around, so wear appropriate footwear for those campus tours.

"I would suggest comfortable shoes as you will probably be doing a lot of walking," says The Student Room member HobbinsE.

Also make sure to check the weather forecast of your destination before you leave, especially if the university is further afield – don't get caught out without your waterproofs or bottle of factor 50. 

2. Don't be late

With hundreds of students and their families attending any given open day, universities put in a lot of work to organise a schedule so the day runs smoothly. They'll let you know where you need to be and when, with some idea about the activities. This way you can plan your journey properly, ideally with a little bit of spare time in case of delays.

Being late "wouldn't be a problem per se, you won't get in anyone's bad books or anything – but it would be a shame to miss the chance to do everything you want to do like attend talks, see accommodation, chat to tutors etc," says LolaLowe.

And while it might sound stupid, make sure you know which campus you're going to. Many universities have more than one, some of which are in the same town (and others which aren't!) which can confuse things.

3. Don't be shy

An open day isn’t just a lot of people talking at you. It’s a chance to meet those within the university community face-to-face and ask any questions you have. They won’t remember every name and face but if you have a good question and establish a rapport, you might just stick out which will be helpful if you get in touch with them later on. 

Even if you’re shy or even a little intimidated by your surroundings, try your best to be outgoing and friendly rather than sticking exclusively to your family.

"Ask different student ambassadors as many questions about uni life as possible," says Toriel. "It might be fun and interesting to talk to the lecturer, but current students are the ones who'll tell you the truth about that particular uni."

4. Don't arrive without a clue

Think beforehand about what you want to get out of the day: what are the things to find out that could help you decide if this is the right university, and course, for you? 

"Make a plan of what you want to look at and find out about before you go," says username2088165. "When I started going to open days I didn't really know what I was looking for, and therefore didn't make the most of them. Prioritise the things which are most important to you (like teaching facilities or accommodation) to avoid getting caught up in various talks and stands which might not be that relevant."

Our university profiles and course search tools are a good place to start your research and jot down some questions to ask on the day. Look up the university and course to find out what other students have to say about everything from the facilities to the nightlife, as well as building up a picture of the content and modules offered on the course. 

5. Don't leave early

By the afternoon, it will have felt like a very long day: the early start to get there in time, all those talks, the walking tours of campus...

But resist the temptation to skip the last few activities of the day and stay until the very end. This may be the only time you’ll get to see the university in person before you apply (or even move there). The same goes for the local area - it might help you figure out what you want in a university city.

"Our open day runs from 9am-5pm, with most subject talks and activities between 10am and 3pm... we recommend you spend at least four hours on campus, to really make the most of your visit," says Amanda, an official rep for the University of Leeds on The Student Room. 

If you're going by public transport, try to book an open ticket so you don’t have to rush for a specific train or bus and miss something. Book tickets early to get the best deals.

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