With local Open Days at the University of Bristol on Saturday 9th September, at the University of Bath on 16th, at UWE on 30th and two at Bath Spa University next month, this is an important time for those of you in years 11, 12 and 13 to be investigating the fantastic choice of higher education courses and Unis right here on our doorstep.

University Open Days happen only two or three times a year due, in part, to the sheer enormity of the occasion. They are huge events with thousands of people descending on campus for the day from all over the country. The entire University seems to turn out to showcase the wide choice of courses, facilities and services available whilst you get to talk to students and academics, visit the accommodation, faculties and departments, as well as take a look around the city and general location.

The Colleges also offer degree courses and have Open Days coming up such as those at Bath College on 28th September, at SGS College on 30th, at Yeovil College (and University Centre) on 10th October and at University Centre Weston on 14th October. And there are several at City of Bristol College in September and October – details on Careersnearhere.com.

A college Open Day offers you the same access to their students and tutors as well as sight of the department(s), sports, social and student facilities. However, they are usually arranged more frequently during the year than those at the bigger universities, they can tend to last for just two or three hours and are generally smaller in size and attract a lot of local applicants – just like you! Definitely worth a look.

So why should I bother?

Meet the lecturers – An Open Day is a great way to meet the lecturers and students on the course that you are considering before you decide whether or not you want to go there for three or more years. It’s also an opportunity to view the department first hand and take a good look at the academic facilities on offer.

Experience the course – It’s a chance to perhaps listen to subject talks and attend taster sessions where you might be invited to sit in on a lecture or tutorial to see how it feels to study there for real. No amount of research in advance can prepare you for that experience.

Chat to current students – Getting to be there in person means you’ve a chance to meet undergraduates and hear first-hand what it’s like to study at the Uni as well as the best accommodation and places to go locally (in their opinion!). The student ambassadors are there to show you around and answer any questions you may have so make good use of this whilst you’re with them.

Find out about non-academic things too – Attending an Open Day is also a fantastic way to find out more about all the clubs and societies, take a look around the sports complex, the radio station, as well as the bars and cafes on campus. It’s also a brilliant opportunity to usually view the choice of accommodation. Will you be in a hall of residence or a shared flat? How far is it from 9am lecturers and how easy is it to get there?

Ask for advice about your application – One tip for the day is to take advantage of any opportunity to ask for advice on how best to complete your Personal Statement (assuming you haven’t already done this). Ask what they like to see from their applicants, any preference for style or content: do they favour particular hobbies and interests or perhaps expect to see more evidence of independence and self-motivation if this is important for the nature of the course. It’s a fantastic chance to find out what’s expected of you in advance so grab whatever tips are available.

Take a look at somewhere new – A less obvious reason to go along is to take a look at somewhere that perhaps you weren’t even thinking of applying to. If you want to study Engineering at Uni and plan to attend the relevant Open Day, why not also attend Open Days at other Universities and Colleges which offer a similar course? It will help you make a more informed choice by giving you sight of the alternatives and could even be a good chance to rehearse and prepare for your main choice. Besides, it’s not uncommon to change your mind having had a look at more than one option.

Go when they are advertised – At some stage – potentially very soon for those in year 13 – you will need to decide whether or not you actually want to go to Uni and – if you do – exactly where you want study for three or more years and what course you want to study. The websites are a fantastic starting point, but Unis hold these Open Days for a reason as there is a limit to what you can find out online. And as the big Open Days are only held two or three times a year, it’s unlikely that there will be one at exactly the point when you need to make your decision and so we urge you to please plan ahead by getting to at least one event when they are advertised.

Add value to your application – If you can start earlier than year 13 all the better: it means you should have seen several Unis by the time you choose whether or not to apply and how powerful can that look on your personal statement when you narrow down your application based on such an informed choice.

And finally …

This a big decision and one you want to make fully informed and based on your own experience – after all, you wouldn’t buy a car without first having read all about it and test driven at least the one make and model that you are considering.

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