One of the best ways to find out about something is to go and experience it for yourself. And if you are in year 12 and planning to start Uni in 2019, why not get along to at least one of the big open days coming up locally in the next two weeks.

Even if you haven’t yet started your research, there are huge benefits in making time to get to one of these events …

So why should I go?

Enhance your application – These events will be extremely busy with people from all over the country, but not everyone makes time to go along to an open day, so what better way to prove you have a genuine interest in a subject and a specific Uni before you apply in the autumn? Even if you end up applying elsewhere, it still adds value to an interview by showing that you had seriously considered the alternatives before giving preference to their university instead.

Try it out first – If you plan to go to Uni, you’ll be committing 3 or 4 years of your life and potentially long hours of study, so you’ll want to know that it suits you. An open day will give you a fantastic opportunity to explore the campus and specific department, meet staff, ask questions and potentially attend a mini-lecture. You’ll also get to meet students who can tell you exactly what it is like to study there and show you around. Plus, it’s not all work – and there will also be a chance to take a look at the accommodation, the student union, the sports and recreation facilities.

Why look at Uni possibilities at this time of year?

This is when the open days are happening* – Whilst the colleges offering degree courses may hold more frequent open days, the larger Unis tend to offer only two or three main campus-wide events during the year due to the sheer scale of the task.

Starting this week, the key local Uni open days for higher education courses are as follows. And all four of our universities in this region are holding one, or more, open day between 9th and 23rd June! As always, check the website for full details.

University Centre, Yeovil – 7th June
UWE, Bristol – 9th June
Bath Spa University – 9th June
SGS College – 9th June
Strode College – 13th June
University of Bristol – 15th & 16th June
University Centre, Weston – 16th June
University of Bath – 22nd & 23rd June

It’s hectic in the autumn of year 13 – When you come back after the summer break there’s not much time for thorough research as you’ll be expected to get your UCAS application completed and your personal statement written. There will also be a lot of academic distractions ahead of your mocks and then actual exams as well as social distractions such as the final year charity events and drama productions. Think back to what the year 13s were doing last Autumn.

They’re local – There may be other open days around the country at other times that you also want to attend but take a look locally – these are on the doorstep and offered by a wide range of quality higher education providers. It’s fantastic to have this choice so do try to take advantage even if you still don’t know exactly what you want to study. You could easily stumble across exactly the right course and location, saving yourself hours of online research – or form a base from which to judge other Unis that you go on to visit later.

But what if I haven’t started my research yet?

Use the list to start your research locally – Have a chat with your teachers if you are unsure, but you will probably have a rough idea whether you should be considering a Uni with high entry requirements – or perhaps a foundation degree as a stepping stone onto a later honours course. That will narrow the choice of Unis to consider from the local list and then it won’t take more than a few minutes to find out if those remaining Unis offer the sort of subject you might be considering.

Then ask questions on the day – Ask lecturers what they might look for in an applicant – and perhaps how you could make your application stand out. Also ask the student ambassadors who show you around what they enjoy most about their course and studying at the Uni. If you do decide to apply there, you’ll have a proven interest and a wealth of information to help with your application.

More than one – If you’re keen and enjoying the experience, why not register to attend more than one open day? It will give you an even better understanding of what you are applying for and a really sound base to compare different Unis and courses.

What should I do to prepare in advance?

Check it’s the right day – Check that you are going to the right open day at the right Uni even before registering to attend.

Check the Faculty – It may be worth checking back on the website, so you know which Department or Faculty your preferred course is located in.

Find out how to get there – You don’t want to be late on the day, especially if there is a formal arrival time for tours and if you have an interview (chat) scheduled with the lecturers.

Check if you need to Register – Most likely you will need to register in advance and could well be sent a pack of helpful information before you attend.

Check any catering – Find out if there will be any refreshments or main meals available. And if there isn’t much catering, you will need to know where the cafes and restaurants are, either on campus or nearby.

Read as much as you can first – An open day will allow you to ask questions that cannot easily be answered online so try to ensure that you have done that online reading as much as you can first.

* And finally …

If you want to go along, register first. But It’s not the end of the world if you do miss an open day this month. All the local universities will be holding open days in the autumn as well. It’s just that they are mostly in September soon after the new term has started so perhaps make a diary note if you plan to go then, as it can be a busy time in school.

It is also always possible to contact the Uni after the event to ask any questions you may have overlooked on the day – or why not register to attend one of their student led campus tours on another occasion.

And once you formally apply, you could well be called for an interview which will give you a belated opportunity to take a look around the Uni – although still far better to have been there before you apply both as part of your research and to show your enthusiasm in advance if at all possible.

For Year 12s, we’ll be running a mini-series on the benefits of researching Uni and degree courses in the coming weeks as well as offering some practical tips.

Careersnearhere: It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started!

Follow @helping16to21s on Facebook to get these blogs before they land on the website!