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Uni applicant diaries: uni fairs and how to squeeze the most out of them

Year 12 student Hannah recently went to a Ucas fair. She reveals what the day was like, along with five wise tips to make the most of this opportunity...

I've always wanted to attend university but have never had a firm plan of what or where, like a lot of people. Suddenly it's only months away from applying and I'm both excited and terrified of my endless choices (and that's without worrying about getting the grades in the first place!).

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What is a uni fair?

Also referred to as a convention or exhibition, a uni fair follows the same rough format. It's a large venue where each university has a booth with a representative you can talk to about your university plans. You can ask any questions you have about that university to help you decide if they could be worth applying to, or just generally about going to uni.

Essentially, though, the university reps are there to sell you their university. They'll have prospectuses you can take with you, as well as other freebies to 'win you over'. Students from other local schools will be there too, so it can get quite busy. 

My main aim was to collect the prospectuses I was after (the day saved a lot of waiting around for them to arrive in the post) and get the chance to browse some places I hadn't yet considered.

The day itself

The Ucas exhibition was at Manchester Central. We left college around 11:30am to arrive at 12:20pm. We were given just over an hour-and-a-half there, to be on the way home for 2pm. 

Ucas exhibition guide and ticket

Five tips to get the most from a uni fair

1. Have an idea of universities you want to see

It's easy to be thrown off on arrival, as the convention was a little overwhelming - so many universities in a huge hall! On top of that, there are rows and rows of stalls. If, like me, you only have a limited time there, go armed in advance with a list of those you wish to see the most.

The floor at the Ucas fair

2. Be prepared to queue and have questions in mind

For the popular university stands, there were queues of around 10 minutes and it could get quite hectic at times.

Prepare the questions you want to ask universities to make the most of your time. For example, think about what information you'd like to hear about your preferred course/s (from modules and assessment style to entry requirements) or something you won't get from the prospectus. 

3. Take a strong enough bag

It may sound trivial, but it's highly likely you'll be hauling back a pile of prospectuses. That was definitely the case for me. I ended up juggling them between flimsy free tote bags… not ideal!

You will come away with lots of university prospectuses - take a bag!

4. Jot down your first impressions

Once you're home weighing up your options, having your real-time thoughts would be very valuable. This is something I wish I had done - that extra something to help make these important decisions. 

5. Enjoy it and do your own thing

The atmosphere of this event was exciting and full of optimism. Just follow your own objectives for the day and make the most of your time there. 

My one regret...

One thing I did expect more of was talking to actual staff and students at the stalls. Although I managed to speak to a few I really wanted to, I didn't have time to queue for more than three or four if I was to get around and gather what I was after. 

If I was going again, I would arrive as early as possible and spend a little longer just to gather all the information I wanted.


About Hannah

Hannah is a current Year 12 student, looking to study either philosophy, politics and economics or law. Currently she's weighing up uni options and shortlisting open days. In her free time, she enjoys going to live music events and seeing films with friends.

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