Each year, universities and other education providers throw open their doors to prospective students. These usually begin in the middle of the year, with most finishing up two or three months before Christmas to ensure you have plenty of time to make up your mind before the new year rolls around.
There are five things to keep in mind before the season begins.
Fully explore your options (and keep an open mind):
Even if you are only interested in one university, try to attend two or more open days to ensure you get a broad view of your study area and how each institution can cater to your needs. You might be surprised at what your second choice (or even your third choice) can offer you, so try not to discount other institutions before you’ve done your research. Once you’ve seen the campus and spoken to lecturers, you may find that the smaller or lesser-known university you’ve had in the back of your mind may actually be better suited to your field of study, or that it may offer a better atmosphere or more personalised support.
Everyone is welcome:
Although it often seems the case, open days aren’t just aimed at high school students. They are great for parents, hopeful mature age students and even current uni students looking for a bit of a change. Some institutions may cater course information sessions to different groups (one for school leavers and one for mature age students, for example). Others may even run parent seminars to provide tips and tricks for helping parents get you through your university years.
Take a tour:
Following a tour guide around campus may not be at the top of your list, but perhaps it should be. You won’t regret it when your first day of classes comes around, especially if your first lecture is an introductory seminar in a building you’ve never even heard of. Plus, you don’t want to be the one who still has no clue where the library is half a semester in! Tours can also help you get a feel of the campus and scope out the facilities available, such as those specific to your field of study. If you’re still exploring your accommodation options, make sure you take a tour of the university’s halls of residence or apartments.
Start thinking about clubs and societies:
If there is something specific that you’re looking for, open days are your chance to explore the facilities, clubs and student organisations available. No matter how niche your interests are — medieval re-enactments included — it’s likely that an institution will be able to cater to it. Some clubs and societies may even run their own activities on the day, meaning that you can get involved and take a mental note of those you’ll be joining when you begin your studies.
This is the last (and, arguably, most important) tip. Take advantage of those around you and ask questions. This is a particularly good idea if a current student is manning one of the information desks to find out what they like (and don’t like) about the institution. If there is anything you need clarified specific to your course (such as the availability of work placements or deferral options), don’t be afraid to ask a staff member. It is much easier to address your questions now — especially if you are lodging your tertiary preferences later in the year. Make the most of the day to find out exactly what you need to know; speak to lecturers, tutors, career advisers and so on. Questions you should be asking include:
- What are the entry requirements and pathways available?
- How flexible is course delivery?
- When are course intakes?
- How does the university ensure the employability of your graduates?
- Are there any extra features in your program (internships, international study tours, industry projects, etc.)?
- What types of careers do graduates go into?