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How to get the most out of university open days

If you're trekking across the country to a university open day before applying, you'll want to make the most of the journey and the day itself. Here's how...

The very first thing to do is to create a shortlist of uni open days you want to go to. You won’t be able to get around them all – there are hundreds! To narrow down your options, use our tool to search for a course or subject now.

Once you’ve decided which universities you want to see in person, sign up without delay as places can go fast. That said, universities tend to host events of some form all year round. These include taster days, summer residentials and special open days the weekend after results day if you're applying in Clearing.

We've spoken to students, parents and university staff to pull together the following tips if you've got an open day coming up soon. 

Getting prepared

A successful open day trip is all about the preparation. Plan ahead by: 

  • getting a feel for the layout of the campus – bookmark, download, save offline or print out a map.
  • seeing where the uni is in relation to the town or city – if you're getting the train, how far is it from the station? If you're parking, will there be enough spaces at the university, or will you need to arrive early to find a spot?
  • getting a rough plan together for your day – book anything you need to in advance, eg accommodation put on by the uni if you're staying overnight.
  • pre-booking train tickets if you’re going by train – buying on the day is often more expensive.
  • getting in touch with the uni if you have any special requirements or disabilities so they can be prepared to accommodate you.
  • drafting questions you need answers to – see our top questions to ask for some ideas.

What to bring on an open day 

  • open day pack – the uni may send you everything you'll need (by post or email) including agenda, parking permit and address/building to go to.
  • portable charger.
  • a bag for carrying any extra prospectuses, documents or items you pick up along the way.
  • someone else! A second opinion can be helpful. Take a look at our guide to who's best to take with you on an open day here

On the day

Maximise your time by attending:

  • at least one or two subject talks, sample lectures, taster sessions or department visits.
  • finance or Ucas talks.
  • tours of the campus, accommodation and SU venues.
  • tours of the town/city itself.

Try to also give yourself some time to explore on your own. Bear in mind that a uni will be putting on its best face for you, so it's worthwhile to spend a bit of time just wandering around and absorbing the general atmosphere. It's also a good idea to stay to the end – however tiring it is, it could be your one opportunity to see a uni you want to apply for, or might even end up going to.  

Your top priority: the course

The course should be at the top of your list of things to find out about at an open day. The end goal is to work out if it's something you really want to spend the next few years focused on, and that it will offer you the right opportunities.

Get it from the horse's mouth – talk to lecturers and admissions tutors and current students on the course.

Make sure you understand exactly what is involved in the course, modules and methods of assessment. The course should be the most important element of choosing where to apply. University Of Birmingham

It’s about understanding the structure and content of the course…

What will you be doing on a weekly basis, how many hours of lectures, what’s the balance between practice and theory?  Melanie | Student

You need to ask yourself whether the course will suit you…

Does it suit your learning style? My daughter chose a degree at Hull that includes plenty of assessment by coursework and not just examinations. Catherine | Parent

We’ve put together some subject-specific questions to ask about your course. Give this a read before you head off on your open day. 

Back-seat parents

Students need to make the final choice when it comes to the right course and university – so overeager parents, take note!

If you're a student on an open day with your parents, don't leave it to them to ask all the questions. You'll be the one who will be living and studying here.

After the open day

Things don’t end when you leave the campus. Follow these few tips to make sure those memories don’t fade and get mixed up with other uni open days… 

  • Look through any photos you took during the day.
  • Consider booking another visit. If you’re on the fence, this could help you make a decision either way.
  • Follow up with anyone you met. Whether they were an admissions tutor or fellow student, it could help you maintain a connection with the uni.

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