To make sure you make the right decision about where and what to study you need to know as much as possible about each university and course. Open Days are your valuable chance to experience a place for yourself.
Make sure you know where and when university Open Days are taking place. There are many places you can find this info, including university websites. Make sure you read all the detail, however, as some Open Days only relate to particular subject areas. You don't want to end up at a Medicine Open Day if you're planning to take English!
You can also find out a great deal about the course and the university before you visit by reading their website and prospectus carefully. By thinking of any questions that are not covered in this reading material, and making a note of them, you can remind yourself to ask them when you're there.
If there's anything that you particularly want to see and do while you're there, and you're not sure that it's covered by the Open Day programme, it can't hurt to phone up the university and ask if you can speak to someone who might be able to help you. They may not be able to accommodate, as they may be quite busy on the day, but you never know if you don't ask!
Make sure that you leave plenty of time to get there. If you're travelling a long way, consider booking a hotel or guest house so that you don't have to rush on the day.
All Open Days will be slightly different, just as all universities are slightly different. As such, it's hard to give a definitive run down of what you might encounter. There are certain features that most Open Days share, however, and having an idea of these before you go can help you to use them to your best advantage.
The most obvious feature is a tour of the campus and student accommodation. This is a great way to get a sense of what it might be like to live at a particular institution. Don't forget that you are making a decision that will influence the next three or four years of your life; so make sure you take the time you need to get a feel for the place.
Of course, universities are likely to be showing their best features to prospective students. This is why you must also take advantage of the fact that many of these tours will be lead by students. Many of these student guides will be only too happy to answer your questions as they take you round and can be a great source of information that will take you beyond the 'sales pitch'.
The course that you will studying is equally, if not more, important than the place itself, however, and you must make sure that you use the Open Day to find out as much as possible about what you will be studying. Many Open Days offer sample lectures, which are a great way to find out about the content and approach of the course. You may also be offered an opportunity to meet staff members and existing students. Pump them for information aboutexactlywhat studying on a particular course will be like.
While many Open Days might be rigidly structured being a little bit creative can help you to find out everything you need to know.
Why not ask if it's possible to stay the night in a student room? Some Open Days offer this facility and it's a great way to get a feel for what it might actually be like to live there. Even if you can't stay on campus, staying in the city or town will give you a sense of what life might be like later on in your student experience.
Make sure you have a look at the social areas of
the university, as well as the seminar rooms and
lecture theatres. Having a drink in the student bar (often the hub of student social life) and looking at the various posters for events and clubs can sometimes tell you just as much as a glossy prospectus. No one will notice an extra few people hanging around, so feel free to take as much time to get to grips with the public areas of the campus as you can.
Most importantly; be friendly and polite to everyone you meet and you should be able to ask them about anything. You never know, you may also end up making a great impression of your future tutor or housemate too!