Cracking open days

Student Underground is the alternative UK education blog and they’ve come up with the six top tips on getting most out of university Open Days.


While it’s tempting to just wander around those universities within an hour’s drive or so, surf the net and read some prospectuses to find out at least 3 or 4 that really appeal to you. It doesn’t matter if some of them are over 200 miles away - doing this legwork now means you’re much more likely to enjoy the results of your journey. Find out and consider the following:

  • Do they actually offer the course you want to take?

  • If so, what’s involved and how is it structured?

  • Does it cover all the content you want to learn more about?

  • How much flexibility is offered in terms of module options?

  • Is there a lot of coursework, deadlines, etc.? If so, do you think you can cope with the workload?

  • Will classes and lectures be in large or smaller groups?

  • Is there an opportunity to take a work placement or year abroad? If so, how are they organised and will you have to make any monetary contribution?


Take the stress out of the journey by deciding how you’re going to get there, what time you need to leave home, where you will park if you’re driving, or how far the university is from the train station if you’re travelling by rail. Put some loose change in your pocket for parking charges and have the address (including the postcode!) to hand, so you can program your Sat Nav. Aim to arrive early if possible, so you can make the most out of your day.


Can you afford the tuition fees and the cost of living? What textbooks and other supplies do you need to buy for the course? Are there any other hidden costs, such as field trips?

Accommodation is another big issue you'll want to find out more about, since you'll be living here for the next few years at least. Questions you may want to ask include:

  • How is accommodation allocated? Is a place in halls of residence guaranteed? If not, what accommodation is offered outside of the campus?

  • What is the cost of accommodation and what exactly does it include?

  • Will you have to move your stuff in and out each term?

  • How good is the campus security?

  • Will you be able to bring a car?

It's important to get answers to details such as these - they could become deal breakers as you start to narrow down your university choices - so make sure you remember to bring that pen or paper with you!


Wander around and check out the facilities - do they provide a gym, swimming pool, WiFi, computer labs, etc? What about food and drink options? Is there a restaurant, snack shop, and bar? Are there any clubs or societies you would be interested in joining? You’ll be spending the next three years of your life here, so it’s a good idea to find out you’ll have everything you need to survive.


Yes, they are paid by the university, but they should (hopefully) give you an honest reply to any queries you have. So talk to as many tutors and current students as you can. It helps if you prepare a list of questions before the actual day. All of this information will then help you decide whether you want to apply or not.

Some questions you may want to ask staff include:

  • What are the entry requirements for the course? And do they accept qualifications other than A-levels?

  • What are they looking for in applicants? How are you more likely to be successful?

  • Do they interview candidates for the course?

  • Are they happy to accept applicants who want to take a gap year or defer their entry?

  • Will an early application work in your favour?

  • What is the graduate employment rate for the course like?

  • Do have a careers advice centre and/or hold job fairs?

Some questions you may wish to ask current students include:

  • What do you like and dislike about the university and the course?

  • Has your experience so far been an overall positive one?

  • Are the halls of residence clean, decent and comfortable?

  • What is the town/city/local area like? Are there lots of places around for entertainment and socialising?

Taking notes and photos throughout the day will help you remember more about the place when you get back home, and allow you to compare it to other university open days you attend.


While you may feel a particular university is suited to you, it’s useful to get another perspective. So ask a member of your family or a friend to go along with you on the day. They’ll pick up on things you might otherwise miss, and it’s always nice to have some company. You can also ask them for their thoughts on the university at the end of your visit, and talk through any doubts you may have. It may seem a lot of hassle to take time out of your schedule and organise an Open Day trip, but actually being at a university and experiencing it firsthand will make it much easier to answer: “Would I be happy to accept an offer from them?”.

£9,000 a year plus living expenses is a lot to spend on higher education, so shopping around to find the best place for you is imperative. Many students say they knew their university was “the one” after attending an Open Day, and the same could be true for you too.

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