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Choosing where to study

Virtual open days

Read about how to make the most of a virtual open day and how to find out what you need to without actually attending.

Studying with video online lesson at home

In the present climate, universities are trying their best to accommodate both current and potential students. They’re attempting to maintain as much normality as possible, and offering virtual open days is one of these ways. 

Whether you’re planning to start university in 2020 or 2021, you'll still want to visit the university when that becomes safe to do so. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts on how to make the most of a virtual experience. 

Keep exploring

While it may be impossible to wander around the campus at the moment, you can still see it in all its glory. Virtual tours are an option for almost every university in the UK. They let you watch videos and use interactive maps so you can get a feel of the university and its surroundings.

Make sure you see examples of accommodation, lecture halls and the city/town streets. This way, you can get as good a feel of the place as possible. 

Do as many tours as you can

Thanks to the lack of travel, it’s possible to sit in the comfort of your own room and visit a wide range of different universities without worrying about the cost and practicalities of travelling the entire country. The coronavirus situation might also encourage you to consider virtual open days overseas, in the US, Canada, the Netherlands or other international universities. Why not check those out too?

Use this to your advantage to compare and contrast each city/town and uni. Think about the accommodation and facilities, and how each university ticks the boxes you’re looking for. 

Ask lots of questions

Most universities will offer tours with current students and staff. Use the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can, as you would at a regular open day. You won’t embarrass yourself or be remembered as the one who asked a silly question. You could ask parents/family to log in too and ask questions relevant to them. This way, no one is embarrassed!

However, some questions might be really individual, so best to take them offline or directly message the uni. Don’t forget, the uni may not be able to give you concrete dates or assurances on issues like exam grades and campus opening dates, but things will become clearer and universities will keep you updated. 

Treat it as a live chat and Q&A rather than an open day. You won't really get the feel of a campus or accommodation online, or really grasp how far the accommodation is from lectures, or how safe the area is where the university is based (although the CUG crime tables can help), so this is more of a fact finding mission.

James Seymour, University of Gloucestershire 

Don’t fixate on coronavirus

There’s understandably a lot of concern about how different universities plan to cope with the coronavirus pandemic – how it’ll change the current landscape for your degree, and how your exam results and application will fare in the new system for 2020.

However, it’s good to remember that going to university is a three-year (or more) commitment. There are a lot of other things to ask, to see and to compare that’ll affect your experience and lifestyle over your entire time there.

By all means, ask what you need to know about the current situation, but be aware of things to consider outside of the immediate situation, such as accommodation, clubs and societies, and transport links. 

Call a friend

Perhaps a friend is looking at the same universities, or similar subjects. It might be a good idea to chat with them and discuss what you’ve seen at different universities so far. Two people looking at the same place may notice different things, so you can discuss the pros and cons together.

Remember to focus. Whatever happens from now till October with coronavirus and universities, you should still keep the plans you have for your future and continue your university application and journey as planned. Any changes will be clearly communicated and new deadlines/dates confirmed as and when the information becomes available.

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