You’ve spent the summer being put through your paces with various exams and assignments, and as you await results day it’s time to look at where you’d like to study next. Universities across the UK are opening their doors to prospective students; showing them around campuses, talking about courses and speaking to parents.
But keep in mind – this is your time to talk too. An open day is your opportunity to learn why a university is right for you. You’re going to spend three to four years there, so it’s vital you get all you can from the experience. Don’t let yourself be herded around and leave none the wiser.
One more thing – have a look through the prospectus beforehand. You won’t want to waste valuable grilling time on things already covered in the programme!
Without further ado, here are 10 questions you need to ask at open days.
1. What careers have recent graduates gone on to?
This will give you some great insight into the specialisms of the university, and their reputation in the working world. If you want to work in journalism, for example, and various graduates have embarked on careers in editorial then you’ll know that you’re in good company.
You’ll get to know a lot more about your career path, the doors it could open and where you could be after your degree. Some universities even invite their successful graduates to speak at open days, so you could pick their brains and get the answers you want.
Whether your desired degree is highly specific to a certain career path or the skills you have are transferable, this will give you a much better idea of the opportunities you’re likely to encounter throughout your degree, and after.
2. What is the student support like?
There may be times where you need to lean on the support of your university, and a good one will always have a structured, trustworthy support system for students.
Whether it’s deadline day stress, exam worries or you’re just having trouble settling in, having a rich network offers countless benefits and can help you with the transition.
Remember that looking after your wellbeing is key to academic success. Many universities now employ mental health professionals who can speak to students with complete confidentiality.
You never know when you may need a helping hand. If you need a little help filling some paperwork in, or are concerned about the safety of yourself or those around you, student support are on hand.
3. How much contact time will there be?
This has a lot to do with how much independent learning is required of you. It’s often a balancing act – working independently will help you grow as a student, but on the other hand you need feedback, guidance and sometimes help.
If you don’t think you’re going to get enough contact time, it’s safe to say that you can look elsewhere. Your lecturers should give clear office hours, and general times of availability for you to see them.
Having ample contact time improves your relationships with staff, too. At university, you’re no longer a ‘pupil’. You’ll be treated like a fully-grown, responsible adult (even if you don’t feel like one sometimes).
4. What’s the accommodation like?
You’ve probably heard some student-housing horror stories, and you don’t want one of your own. At an open day, you should be given a tour of the accommodation, so now is the time to inspect your potential living space and see if it suits your needs.
Is it maintained to a respectable degree? Are there enough cleaners? Universities employ Student Resident Advisors (SRAs) – often third-year students or postgrads – to offer support and advice to first-year students, so it might be worth speaking with them to get an idea of the living situation.
Again, you’ll be spending a sizeable chunk of your time in the accommodation, socially and while studying, so it’s vital you find out all you can.
Here are a few things to ask:
– How much do halls of residence cost?
– When is the application deadline?
– What accommodation options are available to first-years?
– What is the location like?
– Is it safe, and secure?
You may also want to look into the crime rate of the area, especially for city-centre locations. For added peace of mind, taking out contents insurance is a recommended measure.
5. Is there an opportunity to study abroad?
You’d jump at the opportunity to leave your UK campus to go study somewhere exotic, wouldn’t you? Most reputable universities offer students the chance to study abroad, and it’s a great opportunity if you’re that way inclined.
It’s your chance to take in a new culture, absorb life lessons and bring home a renewed sense of purpose (with a little sunshine, maybe). You can also make lifelong friends and further your career opportunities.
It looks fantastic on a CV, too…
6. How expensive is the food and drink?
The golden word of university life: budgeting. This is, most likely, your first leap into the ‘real world’, and you’ll be expected to spend responsibly and not squander your maintenance loan on countless portions of cheesy chips (it all adds up).
Yes, we hate to be the bearers of bad news but watching your pennies is vital at university. At open days, you should be keeping an eye out for local supermarkets and places to eat on campus.
Take your questions to student reps, as they’ll be best positioned to help. They were in your shoes once upon a time!
7. Is there a good social life here?
University isn’t all lectures, seminars and reading lists – you need to let your hair down once in awhile. A university with a healthy, inclusive social offering will often produce motivated students.
Things will likely be hectic at university, especially in Fresher’s Week, so you should make sure the nightlife on offer suits your character and meets your needs.
With a nicely-packed social life, you’ll be well on your way to building lifelong friendships and taking well deserved time out from your studies.
8. Are there opportunities to get some part-time work?
Student jobs are a great way of earning a little extra pocket money while at university, and if you can balance studying alongside a job then part-time work is for you.
It not only gives you a few extra pounds to spend at the end of the week, it improves your employability and gives you real-life experience of the working world.
Also, your loan might not cover all of your living costs. This is an unfortunate truth of university and it happens all the time here, a little part-time job will definitely make ends meet.
Ask around! Your open day is your chance to engage with the community; sit in at the campus coffee shop, take a tour around the library and speak to student reps. You’d be surprised what you can stumble upon.
9. What clubs or societies can I join?
One of the best ways to make friends at universities is to flaunt your interests and join a society. Keep an eye out for posters advertising meetups and, again, ask the student rep for societies of interest.
Now, you may end up adding your name to 10-15 societies without ever going to a meetup. This is a frenzied and slapdash approach and will only result in your email inbox filling up with 10-15 weekly invites.
Instead, know what your passion is and join the groups you’re certain you’ll enjoy. This way, you can show what you’re good at, make friends and build a life outside studying.
10. How is the course assessed?
Some of this may well be in the prospectus, but you’ll find out a lot more by speaking to the course directors themselves. Knowing how academic success is measured on the course will give you fantastic insight, and will prevent you from ‘hoping for the best’ when you work on assignments.
Knowledge is power, after all.
With the above questions, you can take full advantage of your open days and leave feeling like you asked everything you’d wanted to – and, even if you missed something out you can still get back in touch.
If you’re looking for more advice on student life, take a look at our blog. We have fantastic accommodation across the whole of the UK, so be sure to explore your options.