I remember thinking I knew why university open days were important. I thought I was going for the ‘gut feeling’ I would experience that would indicate that university was right for me. People told me I would know from this feeling where I belonged; I thought it would come to me during my tour or talks from lecturers. Except, it didn’t quite happen that way. I became more confused with each visit when I didn’t immediately feel a connection to any of these places. Since then, I’ve realised many won’t experience the promised ‘gut feeling’. So, in the absence of a guaranteed epiphany, exactly what use are university open days?
Why Open Days are useful
One of the most valuable parts of an open day is the opportunity to speak to current students and your potential future lecturers. This is an incredible opportunity to really understand what attending the university is like from someone who has experienced it first-hand. You can also see inside your potential department’s buildings and gain a more comprehensive idea of course content.
At York, the tours often split parents/carers and prospective students, with a current student leading the applicants’ tours. This is super helpful as it allows you to talk more candidly. You’ll also be able to ask questions you may not be comfortable asking around your parents or potential future lecturers. For example, you might want to ask what the nightlife is like and if lecturers are good at explaining things.
Exploring beyond the University
Sometimes, universities can seem pretty similar; they all have numerous societies, various tiers of accommodation and course content much alike. One aspect that can help differentiate them is where they’re located. Exploring the town or city where the university is and liking what you see is really important. This is particularly true if the university you’re looking at is not campus-based. This means you’ll be spending much more time in the city. Attending an open day means you’ll already be there and provides you with an excellent chance to look around the wider area. You can decide if you’ll feel safe, if there’s enough going on, and just generally if you like it!
Lastly, attending a visit day allows you to really gain a sense of the atmosphere of the university. While visiting for a few hours may not be enough to fully understand what life is like, you’ll see plenty of current students going about their days and hopefully, you’ll be able to imagine yourself there.
What to do if you can’t come to Open Days
However, it’s not always possible to visit every or even any of the universities you’re interested in. Here are three top tips if attending an open day isn’t a feasible option:
- Research, research, research! From the university’s website to YouTube videos, there’s so much information out there and it’s only increasing. For example, on the York website, there are 360° tours of rooms for all the colleges. There are also really comprehensive overviews of each course, just to name a few of the resources!
- Ask your school or college if there is a previous student who went to the university or did the course you’re looking at who could give you some more insight into what life is like. Failing that, calling or emailing the universities you’re interested in will allow you to gain more information.
- Remember, you’ll likely end up just as happy wherever you go! You’ll find ‘your people’, discover a new place and have so many opportunities. Regardless of where you end up, you’re likely to be so grateful things turned out that way.
Ultimately, open days allow you to experience aspects of your potential new university in ways that may not be possible by just looking online. After going to an open day, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect your future university. With this additional first-hand experience and information, you’ll be sure to have a better idea of where’s right for you – even if this doesn’t come from a spontaneous realisation.
Read more student blogs about open days.