Making the Most Out of Open Days

Having a choice is great, but when it's a big decision like choosing a university, then a lot of research needs to be done. Open days can be an invaluable part of this.

Whichever part of the world you’re living in, chances are there’s a top university on your doorstep. But there are also plenty of others to choose from – either at home or abroad. So how do you narrow down your choices?

Start by going online – check out what universities have to offer and what the surrounding area has as well; you may be looking for a university close to a ski field for those winter semester breaks, or a university in a city known for its architecture and art history.

However, even in today’s online world, surfing the net isn’t enough to give you a real taste of university life. So the next best thing is to go and visit them, particularly on open days.

What is a university open day?

A university open day is a day – or days – throughout the year, when a university invites prospective students onto their campus to take a look around. It’s a time when you can freely wander around the university, have a look at student accommodation, check out computer, library and cafe facilities, and generally get a feel for the place. You'll also be able to meet staff and current students, and find out more about different study programs and extra-curricular activities.

How do I attend a university open day?

If you’re lucky, your high school might organize a day trip, so all you'd need to do is sign up, pay some money for transport and hop on a bus with your mates. However, you may also be interested in some universities that your school isn’t going to, which means you need to get yourself organized. Check the university's website well in advance to find out when the open days are, so you have plenty of time to plan your travel and arrange for your parents to come along too, if they'd like to.

What should I do at a university open day?

For starters, use this opportunity to find out more about the programs you're interested in. Talk to staff teaching the course - and students, if possible - to get a better idea of how well it fits your own interests, and the kinds of options and experiences you can expect. This is a good time to ask about how the course is taught - for example, is it mainly through large lectures, or will you also be taught in smaller groups? Is there any group work involved, field trips and so on?

Then check out the other facilities on campus - student accommodation, cafes, shops, bars and so on – and speak to students to get a better idea of what life there is like. Are there any clubs you'd be interested in joining? How close is the campus to the local town, and what is there to do there?

Who should I speak to?

It’s all very well researching universities online, but nothing beats talking to people in person. And that’s exactly what you can do at a university open day. Speak to university students, program directors, student recruitment officers, even the receptionists of different schools and offices on campus. They’ll be able to give you an insight into the university that you simply can’t get from their website.

How do I find out about university open days?

By checking out the university’s website. They’ll want as many people to come to have a look around as possible so they’ll definitely be advertising it. Keep a watch on your list of university websites to see when they start advertising it. You can also phone the university and ask them when they’re planning on holding their open days, and your school’s careers advisor is likely to have a list of university open days as well.

What if I want to study abroad?

Travelling around your own country to different universities may be time consuming, but it is relatively straightforward and not too expensive to organize. If some of the top universities that you’re considering studying at are overseas, then that’s rather more difficult!

One option is to visit the QS World University Tour or World Grad School Tour, which bring universities from around the world, to venues across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East. This means you can meet representatives of universities from different countries all in one day, and again, get all your questions answered.

Mon 06 Apr 2015