Open days: five things you must do before you leave
Open days can be hectic, but there are a few things you should make a note to do, regardless of the university's tight schedule of activities...
1. Take pics (lots of them)Ok, you've seen the glossy shots in the official prospectus of suspiciously-happy students in front of picturesque buildings, without a cloud in sight; but there's a lot more to see, as you'll discover at an open day. As you walk around, don't be afraid to take pictures or videos (someone will say if you're not allowed at any point). Free up space on your phone before you arrive to fit more pics.
Taking photos will help jog your memory when you're reflecting on what you saw (especially if you're attending several open days in a short space of time – things can blur together). These are long days and you may not notice every detail right away.
Beware, your phone battery might die quickly at an open day. As well as taking pictures, you may also use it to find where you're going, stream music on the long journey there and browse Instagram during lulls. Take a portable power bank charger with you (or conserve your battery and put your phone away).
Open day questions you should ask, for your subject
2. Go on your own private tour (if allowed)While the university will have most of your day planned, sneak away and see some of the campus yourself. This way, you're more likely to get a better all-round picture of the uni, including those parts the university may want to steer you away from which you should know about.
We're not implying that a university keeps students locked in the basement or anything; but the official tour is likely to show you the very best facilities and accommodation on offer, which might not be representative of the actual student experience.
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3. Ask yourself: ‘Would I be happy here?’Take a moment during the day to stop, look around and ask yourself this question.
Try to picture yourself as a student there. We get that it's not easy to look so far into the future, but that gut feeling might tell you a lot. If it helps, wander away from your mum or dad (or who you've gone with), to gather your own thoughts.
Remember, this is where you'll be living, studying and socialising for at least three years. If you don't quite feel 'it', fair enough.
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4. Talk to 'other' studentsIf you can, try to grab a word with students around campus who aren’t necessarily taking you on your tour or actively helping out that day.
While they probably won't reveal anything too shocking, they will provide a somewhat alternative take on the university compared to what the official helpers and guides will – the latter will have probably led the same tours several times and may be stuck in a pattern of reciting similar points.
All the students you encounter should recognise that you're a visitor and be open to answering any questions – don't worry, they'll remember being in your shoes at one time.
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5. Visit the local areaDepending on the day's schedule and where the campus is located, you may or may not get a chance to see the local area during the day itself.
If you can, push back your journey home by a few hours so you can grab a bite to eat in the city or town centre and have a wander. This way you can see what the area has to offer should you choose to study there – after all, you won't spend every minute in lectures, and you'll likely live off-campus after your first year.
Try and get a sense of how costly it might be to live there, what transport links are like and what there is to do for fun, from shopping and nightlife to the local culture and community.
Our guide to choosing the perfect uni city might give you a few ideas for things to look out for.