Open Days are so important when you’re considering a university – besides Applicant Days (days similar to Open Days but only available to applicants who have received an offer from the university) they are your only opportunity to ask lecturers some questions, get advice from current students, see student accommodation in real life, and really get a feel for the campus. However, most university campuses are massive and it is so easy to be overwhelmed, slip into the crowds, and hold your questions in only to desperately search the university’s website on your return to home. Here are some top tips for these days to keep you calm, confident, and clued-up.
– I can’t stress this enough, if an open day is your first encounter with the university you’ll be totally overwhelmed and will never be able to focus and form a critical opinion. Look at the website and get used to seeing photos of the campus, overviews of the course, and student opinions so you can form opinions of the real thing on the day.
– It goes without saying that you need to go to the talks about your course and become accustomed with the course outline (that is why you’re doing all of this!) But, you mustn’t forget that once you’re at university, lectures will only take up a few hours of your day and many many many hours will be spent in your accommodation so view all your options. (hint: some accommodations will have identical rooms just in different buildings so ask about this to save time!) For most open days you will not yet have an idea of how much money you’ll get from student finance so look at a both en-suite and communal bathroom flats. In all of this consider your priorities: how close you are to your important buildings, the number of flatmates you’ll have, the kitchen space etc and don’t be afraid to look around an occupied room (they’ve agreed to let you search every nook and cranny of their room so don’t be scared to!)
See all the campus has to offer
– Campus tours are great, they’ll show you all the hidden shortcuts that you wouldn’t have noticed until mid-way through your first semester without. But even they can’t show you everything. If you’ve got extra time before you go home I thoroughly recommend that you take a walk around for yourself- find the café’s and SU bar (consider those all-important costs), check out the SU club, locate the library and go in if you can. Make sure you’ve seen all they’re offering before you leave.
Ask Ask Ask!
– You’re surrounded by current students and staff so ask everything you’ve been wondering, all of those little questions you couldn’t answer on their website, and anything that pops into your mind as you wander around. Don’t be made shy by the other applicants there as any additional information you seek out will benefit them too. This really is a now or never opportunity so don’t hold anything that could alter your opinion on the university.
Take a Notebook and Pen
– This really is a must for your open day. Whether it is important course information, an opinion you formed on accommodation, a note of the price of a sandwich, or just a little quirk of the uni that you noticed you want to write it all down. After a few open days it’ll all merge into one, and there’ll of course be things that you forget, but this is the stuff you’ll need to decide your firm and insurance so write it all down!
– The campus is really important for your uni life but it is not the be all and end all. Though money as a student may be tight we all succumb to the occasional shopping trip, dinner out, or whatever else may take our fancy so have a look outside of the campus. Remember that for most students in their second year at university they will no longer live in student halls and so a trip into town could pass your one-day future home!
– These are ultimately what you’re here for and they’re so helpful for preparing you to settle into uni life, and more specifically your uni course. Again, these talks can be somewhat overwhelming and information can be chucked at you from all angles making it difficult to catch it all. The things that you really need to pay attention to is the amount of contact hours you’ll have per week, the module topics, and assessments. (Hint: Ask about mandatory reading for semester one and get a head start during summer so you won’t have to do it in fresher’s week).
– Every university will offer students support with a variety of things. For many students this can be their first source of guidance and advice at university with a range of support for students suffering with mental illnesses, difficult personal circumstances, and issues with assessments as well as many other difficulties. If you are in a situation where you feel like you could benefit from their advice in transferring from sixth form/college to university then definitely seek their help on this day, and even if you are not in a situation like this currently, give them a visit anyway and ask about all of their services as you don’t know if you may need their help one day when you are a university student.
– Similar to student support, the student union is an excellent source of help and guidance for anything you may encounter in your time at the university. This can include trouble making new friends, financial troubles, course concerns, and problems regarding accommodation so it is essential that you know where they are located and how to contact them. It’s also a good idea to check the fees of the student union (if any) as this can vary from uni to uni.
– If you are going to a lot of open days it can feel as though you’re spending every weekend travelling. However, this time can also shape your opinion of the university as for some the distance from home is a prominent factor to consider. Whether it be because your circumstances don’t allow you to be hours away from home, or the cost of a train or coach home is ridiculous (hint: look at different banks when opening a student account as some offer railway cards or coachcards for cheaper travel) the distance between home and university is something to consider as those hours back and forth will soon mount up over the years!