You may have heard the term ‘open day’ bandied about in class, your parents may have even dared to ask if you are attending any, perhaps you are already up to speed and have everything sorted, or maybe you are just sat there rubbing your noggin wondering what all your class mates have been going on about?
If college or university is on your radar, then heading to an open day gives you a chance to ask questions, meet students and staff, and explore uni and college facilities in order to weigh up your options.
This may all sound a little OTT but just think, this is where you may be spending the next three years of your life, and someone may have mentioned that there is *cough* a bit of a cost involved *cough, cough*. It is a tough decision, but one that has the potential to be amazing. It really is down to you to shape what happens next.
Already have all of this in the bag? If so, go to the top of the class! But for the rest of you, here’s our guide to becoming an open day pro.
Which open days are you going to attend?
Whoah there! There are are around 370 potential universities and higher education colleges to choose from. This may require whittling down, unless you are planning to spend the next year and a bit visiting them all. Kudos to you if you do, but for the majority of us, a shortlist is what is needed. Hopefully you will have a slight inclination in what courses or subjects you would be interested in studying, you may even know what university you would like to attend.
Bristol student and member of the University of Bristol Hot Air Ballooning Society @paddyo.11 is looking forward to taking to the skies again at the upcoming Bristol International Balloon Festival - @bristolballoon We'll be keeping our fingers crossed for him, especially if we get to see more birds-eye views of our beautiful campus, just in view here behind #brandonhill Thanks @paddyo.11 The 37th #balloonfiesta takes place 11-14 August 2016 at Ashton Court. #wearebristoluni #bristolinternationalballoonfiesta #UniveristyofBristol #bristoluni #Bristol #ashtoncourt #balloons #BUHABS
Top tip! If you are looking to move away from home, consider visiting different types of universities, perhaps both campus and non-campus, city versus rural universities, and figure out which set-up you like the most.
What happens at an open day?
Advanced algebra tests and 400 metre sprints. We joke. Don't worry, each uni will have planned activities for the day such as tours of the teaching facilities, student union, and accommodation, as well as talks and sample lectures.
Don’t be a wall flower, this isn’t the first year disco. Make sure you attend events and talk to as many people - staff and current students - as possible, as they will give you taste of student life. Also, be sure to take notes and photos as you tour, that way you will be able to recall the pros and cons of each place.
Pack a plan!
Firstly, it is really useful before heading off to any open day to make sure you know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there. Some universities may have the name of the city in their title, but their campus might be further out. It is also worth taking someone who you can give you a second opinion along with you - whether it is your parents, sibling or friend.
Although most open days have a set format, outline your own agenda for the day. You’ll want to attend talks, sample lectures and sessions, see your course department. It is likely you will be shown the campus, accommodation and student union venues. If you have any extracurricular pursuits, such as surfing or broadcasting, checkout what facilities they have to support this. And explore the surrounding area, be it town/city or countryside, as your life at university will extend beyond your course and campus.
Your head is probably brimming with lots of questions, some of which you may have answered by flicking through a course prospectus and website. For the remainder put pen-to-paper/fingers-to-keyboards and prep what you want to ask staff and current students. This is your chance to grill them on things like what are they looking for on applications, teaching and assessment styles, placements abroad, career prospects, and day-to-day costs. Check out this great list of top questions to ask on open days that the lovely folk at Which? have put together.
We’d recommend avoiding using any strong interrogation techniques, but don’t be put off asking students for frank and honest opinions so that you can get the full picture. No university is going to be without it’s flaws, it’s all a fine balance of working out what you can’t live with or without, with the end goal of finding something that suits you best.
If you’ve attended your open days but your head is full of questions rather than answers, then don’t think twice about getting back in contact with the university at a later date to get more information.
Maybe the course is a totally new subject to you, or you are struggling to pick your top choice university. If you are in this boat, you could always try a taster course - similar to a taster menu, but with less food involved - which will give you a flavour of the subject. Often they'll include a number of workshops and seminar sessions, led by the teaching staff at the university.
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