If you’re committing to studying somewhere for three or four years, it’s worth researching thoroughly first. One of the best ways to do that is in person at an official open day and there are plenty of those coming up in the next few weeks. After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, so think of an Open Day as a way of simply trying out the Uni before you decide.

For today’s blog, we’re going to look at how to prepare and what to expect on the day. We’re also going to show you some of the other ways to get a feel for a Uni if you can’t make the Open Day itself.

How can you prepare for an Open Day?

Plan the right questions – Just as you would research ahead of an interview, first check the Uni website and read any of the brochures that you may have been sent so you know as much as you can in advance. When the opportunity arises, it means you only need to ask any specific, outstanding questions of the lecturers or student ambassadors.

Make best use of your time on the day – Learn everything you can ahead of your visit, so you can decide what you actually want to do on the day. Do you want to see the sports facilities, attend a taster lecture if available, view the choice of accommodation so you can check which one is best suited to you? For example, would you prefer catered accommodation or perhaps somewhere close to your Department (for 9 am lectures). You may not have a full choice, but a combination of research and an Open day visit will ensure you know exactly what you’re applying for.

Check it’s the right day? – Check that you are going to the right Open Event. It might sound silly, but many Universities and Colleges are spread over a number of different campuses and each can have its own events. If you want to find out more about becoming a Nurse or Allied Health Professional, look out for the Open Day at UWE’s Glenside Campus (or one of the main UWE, Bristol Open Days), but you won’t find the Faculty of Business and Law at Glenside so check the details before even registering to attend.

Which Faculty? – If you decided on the Uni because of a specific course, it may be worth checking back on the website, so you know which Department or Faculty it is in. This is not always obvious as a course sits in a relevant department which then sits in a broader Faculty. Checking in advance could save yet more time on the day.

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.

Do you need to Register? – It’s likely that you need to register in advance to attend. This will help the Uni to prepare for the day and provide the right number and mix of student ambassadors to show you around.

Check any catering – Find out if there will be any refreshments or main meals available. If you’ve pre-registered or been invited for the day, you’ll most likely have been sent a welcome letter or email with this information. If there isn’t much catering, you will need to know where the cafes and restaurants are, either on campus or nearby.

How might you feel on the day?

Depending on how much you want to go the Uni, it’s still possible that you may be feeling both nervous and excited. Will you meet your future lecturers? Will you create the right impression and not ask a stupid question? Just remember that everyone else will be feeling the same. And the student ambassadors will remember exactly how they felt on their Open Day visit, so you’ll be made to feel very welcome and they’ll help you get the most from your visit.

Any stands on display will be also manned by relaxed fun-loving students keen to tell you all about their clubs and societies or by friendly staff able to patiently talk you through the different types of accommodation and when you need to apply. You should leave feeling like it was well worth it and, hopefully, whether – or not – you really do want to study there after all.

What should you do on the day?

Sign in on arrival – If you had to register in advance, or if you were invited to a Departmental open day for students who have applied to the Uni via UCAS, you will most likely have to register on arrival.

Talk to people – If there’s a careers fair style event, make time to talk to the staff and students on the stands that interest you most: these could be student welfare, clubs and societies, accommodation, finance and the Students’ Union.

Check the locality – If you have never been to the town or city before, try and make time to visit the centre as well. This may involve staying overnight to fully appreciate the nightlife and student scene, but it will be worth it.

Is there an alternative?

Websites – If you can’t make an advertised Open Day for any reason, there are usually alternatives. The Universities and Colleges have excellent websites which include details about all the things you might see at an event: the sports and social facilities, accommodation, campus layout, the Department and equipment available. Many, such as the University of Bath, also have 360degree or Virtual tours of at least one of these online.

Student-led tour – It is usually possible to book a student-led tour for individuals or small groups. This may require registering for a pre-determined date and is unlikely to give you access to a taster session for your subject or a chance to meet representatives from the different clubs, societies and student support services, but it will give you a feel for the layout of the campus and a chance to see most of the sport and social facilities! If you are unfamiliar with the town, it could also help you get a flavour of the local surroundings and nightlife. And even if the students are not from your actual Department, they will be able to answer any general questions about life at the Uni.

Self-guided tour – It is usually also possible to simply visit the Uni and take a self-guided tour. The University of Bristol, for example, have a self-guided audio walking tour which takes about 90 minutes and includes several optional detours around the city. Whilst Bath Spa University has an Open Campus policy at Newton Park, welcoming visitors Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

You can pick up an information pack from Main House reception, which will include a self-guided tour leaflet, but please get in touch before you visit. They’ll need to know the date you would like to visit and the course you are interested in – and they can also help you with any queries.

And finally, …

The Uni is trying to persuade you to choose their course and their campus. If you’re in Year 11 or 12, the Uni will want you to apply to them as one of your UCAS choices – and if you’re in Year 13 and have already applied, they’ll want you to put them as your First – or at least your Insurance – choice.

Even if you have to have a selection interview in the middle of the visit, the underlying objective of the day itself is to sell the idea of the Uni and course so you choose it over others. Having this in mind may help to give you confidence to prepare thoroughly in advance and make the most of the experience on the day.

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

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