Making the Most of University Open Days

Visiting the universities that interest you is the best way to find out about the courses on offer and to view the facilities provided. Usually an open day includes campus and departmental tours, giving you the opportunity to talk to staff and current students and possibly attend taster lectures.

In advance

  • Check that the open day you are planning to attend covers the subject or subjects you want to investigate. General open days cover all subjects but some universities hold subject specific open days.
  • Book your place at the open day (if required) in advance of the actual event. Do this online on the university website or at www.opendays.com.
  • Look at the programme and decide which activities and talks you want to attend. Don’t leave it till the last minute as places at departmental talks and tasters may be allocated on a first come first served basis.
  • Plan how you will get there. It’s a good idea to take details of the venue, where to go on arrival and a campus map.

On the day

  • Attend at least one or two subject talks, sample lectures, taster activities or department visits. If your parents have come with you there may be separate parent activities they can attend.
  • Take a tour of the university, Student Union venues and accommodation.
  • Attend a finance or UCAS talk.
  • Explore the local town/city itself if you have time.
  • Ask questions. The main areas you may want to investigate are shown below. Your course choice should be top of the list of things to find out about at an open day. You need to work out whether you want to spend three or more years focusing on this subject(s). The questions that follow are examples – decide what you want to ask on your visit;

Course choice

Getting a place:

  • What’s the ratio of applicants to places?
  • What are the academic entry requirements? If the UCAS tariff is used to make offers will all my qualifications be counted?
  • What personal qualities or relevant experience are admissions staff looking for in the personal statement?
  • Will I have to sit an admissions test?
  • Are applicants interviewed as part of the selection process and if so, what is the purpose and nature of the interview?
  • For art and design degree courses is an art foundation diploma an entry requirement?
  • How flexible is the university likely to be on results day if my grades don’t quite meet the offer I’m holding?
  • Are places likely to be available in Adjustment or Clearing?
  • Does the university encourage students to take a gap year? If so, when is it best to apply for a university place? Is any specific gap year experience recommended for the course I’m interested in?

Course information:

  • How is the course taught and assessed?
  • What specialist options are available?
  • What is the staff to student ratio?
  • How many hours of teaching time is timetable each week in term time?
  • Am I expected to buy any materials or equipment?
  • Are study abroad opportunities available as part of the course? If so, where can I study and for how long? How are study abroad placements arranged?
  • What links does the department have with employers?
  • Are paid work placement opportunities an integral part of the course? If so, when do placements take place, who is responsible for arranging them and what is a typical placement salary?
  • How does a study abroad or work placement affect tuition fees?
  • Is the course accredited by the relevant professional body? (applicable to vocational courses)
  • How successful are graduates from this course in obtaining employment? What type of jobs do they enter?
  • What are my options for postgraduate study after this course?

University/college facilities

  • What are the library/IT facilities like?
  • What support services does the university provide? Eg job shop, careers service, counselling service, financial advice, medical/dental centre, chaplaincy.
  • What support is available for students with additional needs? How can I access that support?
  • What opportunities does the university provide to help students develop employability skills?

Accommodation

  • Do students live in university accommodation in the first year?
  • Is accommodation guaranteed for all first year students, even if the university is my insurance choice or if I gain a place through Clearing?
  • What type of university accommodation is available and what are the costs?
  • Will I have to move out of university accommodation at the end of each term?
  • How far is the university accommodation from other university facilities and from the local city or town centre?
  • When can I apply for university accommodation and how does the application process work?
  • Where do students live after their first year and what is a typical private sector rent?
  • What help is available to arrange accommodation in the private sector?

Social life

  • What university sports are available and what are the sports facilities like?
  • What social activities, clubs and societies does the Student Union organise/support? What are the Student Union facilities like?
  • What is the social life like in the local town/city? Are there cheap student deals/nights out/places to eat?
  • What music activities (eg orchestras, choirs, bands and individual tuition) does the university offer?

Location/travel & transport

  • How far is the university from the nearest town/city centre?
  • How far is the university from the nearest rail station or coach station?
  • If I need to use public transport to get about what will it cost me?
  • Are students allowed to bring a car to the university? Are there parking spaces for students at the university and at halls of residence?

Finance

  • How much money will I need to survive at university?
  • What bursaries, scholarships or fee waivers does the university offer? How can I apply?
  • Will I be able to find part time work in term time?

And finally….

What happens if you miss an open day? You can usually arrange to visit on a different day. Contact the relevant department direct to enquire.

Useful resources

www.opendays.com

www.ucas.com/how-it-all-works/explore-your-options/events-and-open-days

www.universitytasterdays.com