So: you’re on your way to an Open Day. You’ve got an inkling of what you want to do, where you’d like to go and who you want to be – but how do you make sure you’re making an informed and considered choice about your future? The solution is easy. Ask as many questions as you can at an open day!
Here are the top five questions to ask, so you can make an informed decision about where and what to study at university. First, however, remember that your university experience is going to be your personal experience. You’ll feel more confident if you ask the questions. Your friends, parents, guardians (or whoever you bring with you) aren’t you. This decision is about your own hopes, dreams, and goals.
1 – Chat to students working at the open day
The first questions you should ask are easy: chat to students who are studying the courses you’re interested in.
- What exactly do they study?
- Do they participate in any extracurricular activities?
- What are their career goals?
- What modules have they found most interesting?
Yes, this is technically more than one question, but current students are one of your best sources of information. Do remember though, most student ambassadors are paid so aren’t going to tell you anything negative. Nevertheless, their tones, interests and hobbies are going to inform you about what opportunities are available and what you too could participate in. If you’re feeling nervous, this should also increase your confidence so you can chat to admissions tutors or other staff.
2 – Can I study abroad?
Ask about study abroad opportunities or year in industry/placement opportunities. Ask how students previously on your course have engaged with student exchanges or internships. This might not be something you’ve seriously considered yet, but they’re experiences highly valued by employers. Ask about prerequisites for these programmes as often you need to have achieved at least 60% in your first year. You should also see if there will be opportunities to change onto year abroad/placement year courses later on if it’s not something you want to think about right now. You might change your mind in your second year and, realistically, you’ll thank yourself when applying for jobs in your final year.
3 – What sort of careers support is there?
Enquire about department-specific career support. Then, seek out the careers service separate from your department. Consider your career goals – even if they are just hypothetical currently – and ask how they can be best achieved with your time at university. For example, if you’re interested in journalism, ask about student media groups and see what support your department offers for this career. Societies and volunteering are going to feature prominently on your CV. They’ll give you the skills you need to get that dream job.
4 – What scholarships do they offer?
Ask about scholarships. Scholarships are often quietly advertised, so you don’t know what you could be eligible for until you ask. There might be nothing, there might be something – but undoubtedly, it will be on a web page that you haven’t yet looked at.
5 – Where will I be taught?
Ask where your teaching is going to be. Just because a department is in a certain building doesn’t mean you will be taught in that specific building. Once you’ve asked tutors or students, walk around where your teaching is likely to be. Do your best to see if you can imagine yourself there. Can you imagine yourself walking in those corridors, sitting on that bench, jogging by that lake? If you can, it means that this is an environment where you’re comfortable and where you can be yourself. This is exactly what’s needed to succeed at university.
It always sounds like a cliché, that you will know when somewhere is right for you – but my Dad drove me to multiple open days where the moment I stepped foot outside his car, I couldn’t imagine myself living on those campuses and in those cities. Comparatively, when we were driving away from my Post-Offer Visit Day at York, I just knew I’d be back and (obviously) six months or so later, I was.
Ask these five questions at an open day and see how you feel. Going to university is a big decision, but this list should help you work out what’s right for you. Good luck!
Read more student blogs about open days.