What is a university open day?
The open day is one of the first steps towards choosing your university and course, and it’s often among the most exciting. Universities open their doors and welcome you in like a VIP, hoping to make the best impression they can by giving you a flavour of what life would be like if you were to study there.
You’ll usually be greeted by staff and students and will have the opportunity to ask them questions, attend taster lectures, listen to subject talks and take a tour of the campus, the city itself and the student accommodation that is on offer.
What to expect at an open day
There are lots of elements and events that can potentially make up a university open day, but they can typically be grouped into four main areas - you will find these usually form the backbone of most open day itineraries.
- Tour of campus, student accommodation and city: this is an integral part of the open day, during which you will have the chance to get a first-hand feel for what the university is like outside of the prospectus, as well as tour relevant facilities such as sports or library services. Most universities will provide the chance for you to view student accommodation and visit the local city area too.
- Subject talks: these are sessions in which a staff member, usually a course leader, gives an overview of what you will be taught, how their faculty operates, and the support and opportunities offered to students. There is usually a chance to ask questions at the end.
- Taster lectures: if you have an idea of what it is you want to study at uni, attending a taster lecture will give you a flavour of the teaching style and content to expect, as well as the lecture theatre facilities provided. These tasters are often drawn from the first year undergrad syllabus, so they offer an accurate reflection of the student experience.
- Meeting staff and student ambassadors: a lot of universities offer the chance to meet staff, students and support reps from the university. There will be lots of stalls for you to visit, pick up free gifts and info, and ask any questions you like about uni life. Sometimes there are student accommodation or brand partners there too, so make sure to take a bag to carry any freebies, brochures or other materials around with you.
Getting the most out of an open day
- Plan your day: make no mistake, it’s going to be a busy and packed day - so it’s really important to plan ahead. This includes how you are going to get there (use this as a practice journey so you know what it would be like coming to and from home on reading weeks) what talks, lectures and events you want to attend, and drawing up a list of the people you want to speak to on the day (for example specific lecturers, or disability/diversity reps). Planning ahead will help you get more out of it.
- Ask the right questions: as well as identifying the right people to speak to, you should also make a list of the questions that are important to you and that will give you the answers you need. Questions for staff might be course-specific, or around broader topics such as the number of study hours, the lecture/seminar split and how much support is offered. Meanwhile, you might want to ask student reps what the best and worst things are about studying at the uni, what the student accommodation is like and whether they rate the local social scene.
- Take notes: at the open day you’ll be bombarded with loads of information - so make sure to keep track of it! Whether in a notepad, tapped into your phone or recorded as voice notes, these little snippets of relevant info will be really helpful when it comes to remembering the day.
- Get a second opinion: a lot of people find it useful to take someone else along who knows them really well, such as a close friend or family member. This other person can get a feel for how the uni might suit you - or not - and act as a valuable sounding board when it comes to making decisions. But don’t forget, the decision has to be right for you!
Start to think about accommodation
Alongside deciding what and where you still study, choosing where to live is probably the most important decision you will make at this stage of your university life. It’s never too early to start thinking about student accommodation, especially in cities where demand for places is high. We have residences nationwide, which you can take a closer look at on our contact us page, as well as taking the opportunity to ask our experts any questions you might have.