If you’ve just started the first year of your A-levels at college, you are probably already starting to think about your choices of university. Although most university open days for students applying for 2016 entry are not going to be held until the late spring, its worth doing some planning ahead so that you can make sure you get to attend the ones that really matter.
You can’t hope to go to all the open days on offer and you need to start by thinking about a shortlist of universities that you may end up applying to. At this stage, this could contain about 25 different institutions that offer courses that you are interested in. You will probably do a lot of thinking over the next few months and if this list changes, that’s not a problem. The most important thing is to start with some reasonably focused ideas, rather than wandering aimlessly through online prospectuses and websites.
Many universities only hold one, two or three full open days each year and they are very popular. Booking is essential and you often need to get in there the day the announcement goes up.
It is common for university websites to give out the date of the open day before the date for bookings is made public, so make sure you set up a table on your computer or mark in your diary when the open days at your shortlisted universities fall. Mark a period of 8 weeks before those dates and remind yourself to start checking the websites for updates.
Many universities invite you to follow them on Twitter, Facebook or they have RSS feeds that you can subscribe too. Dates for open days and booking schedules will probably be announced through these routes, so sign up now.
Once you have booked a place on the open days you are interested in, do some more planning to make sure that you get the maximum benefit. Many university websites have downloadable planners or a timetable of events, so this is easy to do. Write down what you want to see, which talks you want to go to, specific departments you want to explore and make a list of questions that you have. In the excitement of the day itself, it’s easy to forget.
When you arrive at the university, particularly if it’s in a town or city you’ve never visited before, everything will be unfamiliar. Make things a bit easier by exploring the place and the university online in the weeks before. University websites are incredibly detailed and you are missing out if all you look at is the course finder and the list of entry requirements.
Many sites have virtual tours of the campus, student accommodation, interviews (audio and video) with current students, recordings of events at previous open days, feedback from students who attended last year, as well as maps and self-guided tours in case you can get there for a non-open day visit as well.
With all your preparation done, you can approach the day itself with greater confidence and you really will enjoy it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – everyone will be very friendly and helpful. The whole experience will give you a great insight into whether this is the university and the place where you want to spend the next three years of your life.