These are great opportunities to look around and explore the place where you are potentially going to be spending spend three (or more) years. Attending open days is an important part in the process of picking the right university to study at, as it essentially gives you the chance to find out more about the type of academic and social life you can expect here. You have a opportunity to visit all the departments you are interested in, meet course tutors and current students as well have a look around the campus, its facilities and the local neighbourhood.

If you were about to buy something that cost a lot of money, you would take time to check it out before you made your purchase. Well the same principle should be used before you decide on which university to study at. You need to see for yourself at first hand what its really like before you agree to enrol on a long term course. By personally touring the campus and seeing its facilities you can soon find out if the university lives up to its reputation or any claims in its prospectus. A trip there can certainly be far more revealing that looking at a website or reading flashy brochures.

Registering for an open day
Although some universities will allow visitors on a drop in basis, most require callers to register before they can attend. This can usually be done by filling in an online registration form on their website. After booking a place you will normally receive an email confirmation within 24 hours or a letter by post within a few days. Either of these will confirm your registration and also contain useful information like the daily programme of events, meeting points and travel maps etc.

Universities ask for registration so that they know in advance how many visitors to expect and can therefore make the proper arrangements.

You should also note that some events or departmental talks on that day may also require registration. There is however no guarantee that you’ll be able to secure a place this way as admission is at the discretion of the department and places are often limited and usually allocated on a first come first serve basis. Its therefore advisable too book for these as early as possible.

University open days

Start time and finish
Most open days begin at 10am and finish at approximately 4pm. However this is not strictly the same everywhere, many institutions provide breakfasts for prospective students meaning that the day can start as early as 7.30am. Others have ‘open day weekends’ where the university is open on a Saturday and Sunday.

Bringing along friends and family
Universities generally allow family and friends to accompany prospective students on a guided tour of the campus. However they may not be able to attend department talks or registration only events.

Things to do on an open day
Try not to judge the entire university on any single experience you have during your visit, instead its best to look at everything collectively. Below are some tips on what to do on the day;

  • It is essential to talk to as many course tutors and current students as possible.
  • Visit the halls of residence, however remember that as you will probably be shown the best rooms in the building it is a good idea to have a walk around and have a good look to see what the majority of rooms look like.
  • Check out the sports and leisure facilities.
  • Investigate the local area and neighbourhood around the university.
  • If you are socially minded then walk around the city centre and enquire about the galleries, bars, music venues and nightlife.
  • Seek out the notice boards and look at what’s been put on there, its a good way to see how much is going on.

Questions to ask
During your time there do not be afraid to ask questions. Take full advantage of any open day by planning in detail and preparing properly by having a list of critical and objective questions to ask. Below are a list that you should ask;

  • What are the compulsory units / modules?
  • What happens if you fail a unit / module?
  • Can you change course midway and if so what is the procedure?

Places to visit on a open day

  • Sports facilities and centre.
  • Clubs and societies that may be of interest to you.
  • University library.
  • Canteen and catering facilities.
  • Halls of Residence.
  • Students Union.

Planning your day
As most open days start and 10am and finish at 4pm, you will only have a limited amount of time available and many places to see. You therefore need to make maximum use of your time there. Start off by working out the route to the university beforehand to make sure you get there early and on time. If you are going by public transport then check train and bus timetables in advance, if you are driving then ring up the university and ask if visitor parking is available on the campus and if not where is the nearest public parking places.

Arranging one to one meetings
If you want to meet a particular person or tutor on the day, then its best to ring up the university beforehand to arrange a meeting. If you turn up unannounced then you may find they are busy, not available or not even there.

Other things to look for when choosing a university

Local jobs and employment opportunities
If you feel that in the future you will need a part time job to supplement your loan then its worth checking out the local jobs markets.

How good is the local and national transport to and from the campus.

Halls of residence
Remember that the halls can attract different types of people and, as a result, each one will have a slightly different feel. Investigate this more by asking current student who are living there.

When are university open days held
Although many are held in the summer months, there are no real set seasons. They can be held throughout the year and the actual date really depends on the universities marketing campaign and strategy. For exact dates you should contact the admissions team of any university you are interested in.

Advantages of attending an open day

  • You get a real flavour and feel of what your chosen course has to offer.
  • Have a opportunity to talk to tutors and students and find out what its really like to live and study there.
  • You get the chance to attend ‘sample lectures’ given by real lecturers.
  • It will give you more than a minimal glance of university life.

Student helpers on open days
You should bear in mind that the official student helpers or ambassadors are probably going to be the some of the most positive and highly motivated students at the university. To get a more balanced and impartial view try to sound out some of the other students.

Open days from the view point of a university
Universities will be keen to demonstrate that their department is the best for academic education, that their campus has the best social life and that their student accommodation is better than anyone else’s. Prospectus’s along with the open day are there to sell the university to prospective students, an open day can be a counterweight to all the marketing material by giving you a opportunity to see what its really like.


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