If your teen is leaving school next year and is considering college or university for the next stage of their life, then part of the process of applying for a place to study is to go to an open day.
Going to visit the institution that your teen is thinking of devoting the next 3-4 years of their life is a smart move, as it will help them decide if that is where they want to apply to, as well as help answer any questions they (and you) might have. Here are some tips for planning your visit to university open days:
Tips for Visiting University Open Days
Make a list of the universities that your teen is considering and check out when they hold their open days. Here are some tips for maximising the visit for your teen:
Different Types of University Open Days
There are different types of open days that a college might offer:
- Pre-offer open days: these are for prospective students to come visit and see the college before they make their choice for application.
- Post-offer open days: These are held after you have received an offer. There is a greater focus on the degree course itself, with more detailed tours of and talks about your chosen department(s). However, it can be a good opportunity to visit accommodation and parts of campus you didn’t get to see before, though the number of buildings open to the public may be limited.
- Interview-oriented open days: if the course at a particular university you’ve applied to requires an interview, the university will invite you to attend and also offer guided tours and the chance to talk to current students during your visit.
- Residential/overnight open days: some universities offer the chance to stay in university accommodation overnight, and attend some lecutres or seminars the next day. This lets you get a feel for what student life would be like too.
- Campus tours: if you can’t attend the university set open day, then often universities will offer guided or self-guided tours. While they may not include course-specific tours, you can usually contact the department you are interested in to see if they are happy for you to arrange to visit and talk to lecturers and students.
When are University Open Days Held?
Pre-offer days are usually held in the autumn, with post-offer open days being held in the spring time.
Interview-based open days will be earlier in the year. Campus tours can take place regularly across the academic year.
What Can You Expect at a University Open Day?
University open days vary from university to university, but there are some standard things you can expect. For example:
- Tours around campus, these are usually done by current students which means you have a chance to ask someone who is studying there about what college life is like.
- Visits to accommodation options such as halls of residence.
- Talks and lectures about different courses and subjects as well as about the university.
- Many university put on extras such as taster classes or advice events, talks and have stalls available to browse.
When I took my daughter to her post-offer open day, there was a schedule for the day that included introductions to the course, tours of labs and lecture theatres as well as tours of the campus.
Top Tips for Visiting University Open Days for Your Teen
- Get Dates in Your Diary in Advance. Check all the websites of the universities and colleges you are interested in visiting and make a note of their open day dates. Most of them will ask you to register your email to receive information about the open day.
Contact the University in advance if you have any special needs.
- Read the University’s Open Day Schedule. This is usually emailed to you the week before.
- Decide which talks/departments you want to attend/visit. Narrow down the areas you are most interested in and check the schedule for their talks.
- Write down questions you want to ask. Bring a list of questions you want to ask when you are there.
- Plan how to get there. Plan your travel to the campus, if you are driving then make sure you are aware of the parking arrangements for the Open Day.
- Familiarise yourself with campus. Take a look at the map before you go so you know roughly where you want to visit while you are there.
What To Bring With You for a University Open Day
Here are a few things to think about bringing with you to an open day:
- You will definitely want to bring a tote bag or some kind of bag to carry any brochures you will pick up
- A water bottle and a snack just in case you need food options while you are there
- Notepad and pen
- Your list of questions
- Charger bank to keep your phone charged
- Your ticket or confirmation email and if you need a parking permit don’t forget that.
- A parent or friend
After Your Open Day Visit
Spend some time reflecting on what you learned there.
Think about what you saw and heard during your visit. Can you imagine studying there for at least 3 years?
Do you feel the location and atmosphere were a good fit for you? Could you be happy there? Think about both the campus and the location of the university, e.g. if it’s in a town or city. You want to make sure it is somewhere you would be happy living as well as studying.
Make a list of pros and cons for each university/course.
Talk through your options – discussing your ideas and plans with family, friends, teachers or advisers can help you think through what would be best for you.
Check out student reviews if you haven’t already done so.
Finally, if you have any unanswered questions, call or email the university to ask those. You might even want to book another visit if you didn’t get to see everything that day or you aren’t sure about something.