Open days: Why attend and how to prepare

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Deciding which university to attend is likely to be one of the biggest decisions in your life so far.

Even if you live at home and attend a university close to you, the change in circumstances will be significant.

That’s why it is important to prepare yourself for the experience as much as possible beforehand.

Why should you attend an open day?

Open days offer the ideal chance to learn more about the institutions you might be studying at and the courses for which you’ve applied.

Although there is a lot of information available online and in prospectuses, there’s no substitute for visiting a place in person.

By attending open days, you can gain a valuable insight into what each university has to offer and speak to lecturers and existing students about the course and university life in general.

In a previous Seren blog, Dr Jonathan Padley, Widening Participation Officer at Churchill College, Cambridge, expressed his surprise at students who didn’t attend open days.

“When I taught in Swansea a few years ago, I was amazed every year that some students would finish their A-levels then head off to a uni that they’d never visited,” he wrote.

“Literally, the first time they went there was to start their course, which struck me as brave… amongst other adjectives!”

As a Welsh student, all the universities in Wales, England and Scotland will be easily accessible to you, and if you do need to stay over the night before, many will offer free accommodation.

To find a list of upcoming open days you can search on the UCAS website or WhatUni.com.

How should you prepare for an open day?

Research First you must choose which university open days to attend. Most students pick between three and five. You might want to visit different types of university to compare and contrast (e.g. large vs. small, city vs. campus).

Plan your journey Make sure you know how you will get there – check train or bus times and prices, parking options and how long the journey will take. You could also download a campus map to help you find the meeting point.

Plan your day Some open days will be tightly organised, with scheduled tours and lectures, while others will be looser affairs, allowing you to choose what you want to do. If yours is the latter, make sure you know the times of what you want to do/see and book in advance if necessary.

Make time to explore Don’t limit your trip to just a campus tour. Try to make time to explore the town, city or surrounding area. You could end up living there, so it’s the ideal opportunity to get the lie of the land.

UCAS also has a useful open day resource including tips for how to prepare.

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