This is an important time for those in years 11, 12 and 13 to be investigating the fantastic choice of local courses and Unis available right here on the doorstep. And one of the best ways to do that is by getting along to a Uni open day.

Locally, there are open days coming up soon for higher education courses at UWE and Bath Spa University as well as at Bath College, SGS College, City of Bristol College, Yeovil College (and University Centre) and at University Centre Weston (UCW) – details on Careersnearhere.com and in tomorrow’s careers bulletin.

With all these open days in mind, we asked St Brendan’s Sixth Form College for a student’s experience of going to these inspiring and informative events. Issy is just starting year 13 at St Brendan’s and here’s what she told us …

Ask all the questions and cover any concerns

One of the great ways to get the most out of attending an open day is to ask all the questions and cover any concerns you may have about applying for higher education (that’s their main point after all). You probably want to make the most of it – especially if you’re travelling any distance to visit a Uni – so in this blog post I’ll be giving you five handy tips based on my experience; from planning, to what to bring, and how to approach the lecturers.

1. Plan ahead

The first and (probably) the most vital thing to do before going to an open day is planning.

The best way I have found to do this is by using the Uni’s website. This is because when you are applying to attend the open day they have a list of talks, tours and open space areas where you can talk to lecturers. They will probably supply a map too so you can find out where these events are happening in the campus, but don’t worry because there will always be helpful student ambassadors to help guide you, if you end up lost (like I have multiple times)!

Often there is a huge variety of talks, so I think it is important to prioritise the course that you are most interested in (if you’re still unsure, use the Uni website to research the course, details about the modules and if it has any work experience or trips to offer). Most big universities offer two time sets for course talks, so don’t worry if after all the research you’ve done you still haven’t found the perfect course (that’s what the open day is there to help you for)!

2. Pack a survival kit

So, you’ve now booked and you’ve planned your day. Second question you might be thinking is, what to bring? I would definitely recommend bringing a notebook and a pen to make notes during the talks and for any questions you want to ask the lecturers.

This will come in handy when writing your personal statement, as you can make it personal for the course as well as showing your enthusiasm as you attended open days. It also gets hot (feels like a sauna if you ask me!) in certain places in the university due to the amount of people there on the day. So, it’s probably a good idea to bring a water bottle to keep hydrated.

Sometimes the day can be so busy it’s hard to take time to rest and eat, so perhaps also a good idea to take a snack. Although the Uni may well provide you with free snacks and/or drinks too.

3. Quiz the lecturers

I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the lecturers being there on the day. Ask them all the questions you can think of, even if you think it might be irrelevant or silly. Remember the cliché line, somebody else would want to ask the same question, they just didn’t have the confidence.

It’s a good idea to ask questions on a variety of topics relating to university life and beyond. Some questions that you could possibly ask include:

  • How many hours a week will I be in timetabled teaching and what days will these be on?
  • Can you recommend any activities or skills for me to gain so that I can improve my personal statement?
  • What are the employability rates like?

4. Think about the facilities

So, whilst you’re at the campus it might be a good idea to check out the facilities that the university offers. This could be from the specific equipment offered on the course, for example cameras for film production, or more general academic facilities like the library or living facilities like accommodations and food outlets (if you’re going to those 9am lectures the food offered on site and on campus accommodation is going to be important to you).

When looking at academic facilities, especially for subjects where the equipment used is important – e.g film production – it is a good idea asking how much money in recent years has been spent on funding the equipment. In other words, are they using up to date equipment and technologies?

5. Explore!

If you have travelled to the university – even a local Uni – I would 100% recommend spending an hour or so exploring the city unless you are already very familiar with it. Perhaps do this by visiting the local shopping area or grabbing a meal in a local restaurant off site? I think this is vital because if you do end up going to the Uni, you’ll potentially be living in that city or town for at least 3 years so you definitely want to gain a feel for the place before moving there!

And finally …

I believe it’s always worth taking time to plan for the day, from planning the scheduled talks and events to making a list of questions ready to ask the student ambassadors and of course the lecturers!

Then the most important thing to do on an open day is to ask yourself the question: can I imagine myself here? And of course, have fun – these days are supposed to be a fun learning experience not a stressful one!

Thanks to Issy and St Brendan’s Sixth Form College for another fantastic guest blog. Some really helpful tips from personal experience. You can find out more about St Brendan’s at https://www.stbrn.ac.uk/.

Careersnearhere.com – free signposting to local open days as well as talks, events, work experience, academic courses and apprenticeship vacancies.

Please feel free to share today’s blog with parents/carers, teachers and 16-21s.

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