A university open day is an excellent chance for prospective students to see beyond the glossy brochures and flashy websites that universities have. It’s also their chance to get a real feel for the place and could help them decide which university to apply for or attend.
If your child is moving some distance from home, this could be hundreds of miles; it’s also worth making plans to explore the local area whilst you’re there. The university should be able to give you details of overnight accommodation, and in some instances, they’ll offer it themselves if you’re travelling over a certain mileage.
Although the final decision on a university should be left to your child, it can help you to feel better about their choice when you’ve visited the campus and seen where they’re going with your own eyes.
The majority of universities invite prospective students to bring a guest with them to open days and in many cases, they choose to bring one or both parents. In recent years there has been a rise in universities not just welcoming parents to open days, but making provisions especially for them.
Separate talks, lunches, and tours are all put on to specifically address the concerns that parents have about their sons and daughters going to university. Teaching staff and accommodation and welfare staff are all on hand to answer any questions you might have as a parent of a prospective student.
With a growing culture of parental involvement in education, particularly financial, it’s not surprising that many parents want to see where their children are studying and what that institution has to offer.
Here’s more on the important topic of should parents attend open days:
Parents are able to act as drivers, note takers, second pairs of eyes, sounding boards, and sometimes most importantly, moral support, for their children who may be moving away from home for the first time.
However, it’s important to recognise that this is your child’s open day, not yours. University is about young people gaining independence for the first time and in many ways, the open day is the first step on that journey.
Universities encourage their prospective students to raise their hand and ask questions on the day, not the prospective student’s parents!
If there is no special provision for parents at an open day you’re attending, be prepared to stand aside and make room for other prospective students so they don’t miss out. This is especially important on tours or in example lectures where places may be limited.
That said don’t keep your questions to yourself, as parents often ask a different set of questions to those their children think of. For example, parents’ questions tend to be focused on things such as safety, accommodation availability, library opening times, and where you can find the nearest cash point. All good questions, and not the kind of thing that your average prospective student might think to ask!
It’s vital that you think carefully about your child and their personality when you’re discussing whether you’ll attend an open day or not.
For example, if they’re already confident and independent they may feel stifled and embarrassed by having you at their open day. On the other hand, if you know your child is finding the prospect of going to university a bit daunting, you could give them valuable confidence by going with them.
Just remember to encourage them to speak up and explore the campus on their own. It might even be worth separating for part of the day and sending them off on a tour or example lecture whilst you have a coffee and read the prospectus.
Encouraging independence is the key to ensuring your child has a successful open day. If you want to ask questions, try to ask them on a one-to-one basis rather than getting involved in the middle of talks.
Try not to worry if you leave the open day and still have some unanswered questions. The university will have an email address and staff will be well used to answering queries from concerned parents.