Top Tips for Open Day Season
It’s open day season! If you’re in lower sixth and thinking about university, and you are thinking about university, you should be paying attention. Universities across the country are throwing open their doors to bright eyed, snotty-nosed young sixth formers with the intent of reeling them in.
There’ll be banners, boasts about student satisfaction rates, taster lectures, accommodation talks, long and lingering campus tours, there’ll be chirpy student ambassadors, there’ll be free tea, free coffee, maybe cake, and you will have the chance to size up the unis you’ve been thinking about.
Here’s how to make sure you do that well.
1. Actually go.
I know that sounds obvious. I know that the unspoken sentiment, the silent presumption at the heart of this article is that you go. You have to go. It’s the obvious choice. It makes sense. You go, you get a feel for a place, you apply, you get in and you live happily ever after. That’s the narrative everyone’s agreed on and you’re not supposed to mess with it.
Except, it doesn’t always work like that. Because it’s spectacularly easy to not follow that narrative, and to justify to yourself why you’re not going.
I mean, I get why; going to open days means travelling. And travelling not only pits you against the stark logistical terror of booking rooms on the internet and waking up early in the morning, it poses a major threat to your schedule. It clashes with Steve’s party, you’d have to take time off work, you won’t get the time to finish that sociology essay. Who even has the time to just, go to Leeds, anyway? What if you don’t like it? You’ve just wasted a day, a whole day, of potentially valuable Netflixing.
As difficult as it is to actually do, it’s important you make sure you prioritise open days. You have to be, have to be, brave enough and focused enough and organised enough to make space for them in your calendar. They’re an important process of curation; open days let you whittle the spectrum of choice down to something manageable. You could go anywhere, don’t forget, and that fact alone is intimidating.
The only way to really codify your interests, to get a sense of what it is that appeals to you about a place or a university or whatever, to formulate some coherent sense of what exactly it is you’re looking for, is to actually go. Finding out what works for you and what doesn’t. That’s the power of the open day. And you can always watch Netflix on the train journey.
2. Do your homework.
For all of the importance of actually turning up at a place, knowing what to say when you get there, what questions to ask, how to ask them and what the answers mean to you, is just as important.
Universities are huge things, after all. By definition they’re a meeting point for cool, hip interesting young people and a medium of facilitating cool, hip interesting things. They can offer you a lot. Making sure that what they offer aligns with your particular interests, then, is a little bit of big deal. So take the initiative, use the internet to find out if your course offers a year in industry, find out where people tend to go, and then ask about it on the open day.
Look, too, at the societies, at the opportunities provided around your course. Take a sneak peek at the societies associated with your course and ask what the members go on to do and how to get involved. Look up the student newspaper online and read what interests you. When you go to an open day, you have to wring as much information as possible out of it, and the best way to do that, is to do some research first.
3. Check out the town.
It’s easy, too, to wrap yourself up in a nice big academic comfort blanket when you’re thinking about open days. To get excited about taster seminars and tours and all the promise of the phrase ‘refreshments provided’. Pasties, you think, always taste better when someone else is paying.
You shouldn’t, though, because to ignore the towns as so many people I know did, would be to miss out on half the benefit of travelling across the country in the first place. More than that, it’ll deny you the chance to really get a feel for the place. Make sure that, when you go to visit a place, you get something to eat, maybe hit one of the local tourist spots, and then take a stroll down the high street.
It doesn’t take long, but it gives you a sense of all the things going on outside the university. Is there a bar with links to the local music scene? What about a kooky independent restaurant with a penchant for spoken word? Do they have, and this is the big one, a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream bar? The only way to find out is to look.
Next page: How to Burst the Student Bubble