Choosing a university or college is just as important as finding the right subject. With so many different higher education experiences on offer, figuring out where to apply to can be overwhelming. An open day is the best way of getting a real taste of campus life.
As well as getting to see the facilities, an open day is a great opportunity to find out more about the different courses on offer from the people who live and breathe your subject – those who teach and study it, current students and academic staff.
Wherever you decide to study, it’s important to do as much research as possible so you make the choice that is right for you.
How to prepare for an open day
It's important you make the most of your time when you’re on campus. Here are some top tips and things to consider ahead of an open day:
- Make a shortlist — there are 395 unis and higher education colleges in the UK — so visiting them all is pretty much impossible! Whittling them down to a shortlist may take a while, so here are a couple of resources that might help: the UCAS search tool and our open days search tool.
- Tours and talks — don't worry; you won't just be left to your own devices when you attend an open day. Each uni will have planned an itinerary of activities that will run throughout the day, such as tours, talks, meet and greet sessions, and more. Check uni websites or speak to them to see if they have a planned timetable of activities.
- Plan ahead — it's also a good idea to have your own agenda in mind when visiting a uni or college. Consider what you'd like to find out more about, which departments you'd like to take a look at, and prepare some questions.
- Taster courses — got a couple of unis in mind? Why not see if they run taster courses? These are designed to give students a flavour of the course they're interested in applying to. Often they'll include a number of workshops and seminar sessions, led by academic teaching staff at the university, as well as campus and accommodation tours.
- Higher education exhibitions — there are over 50 UCAS exhibitions each year, right across the UK. They're an excellent opportunity for you to meet numerous unis and colleges in the same place at the same time. They're worth attending even if you're considering other options – professional bodies, recruiters, and volunteer organisations exhibit there too.
If you have any accessibility needs or require any additional assistance with your visit, make sure you contact the university or college disability support team – they’ll make sure you have access to everything you need on your visit, from hearing loops to ground floor accommodation tours.
If you do have a disability, there may be some other things you should consider alongside the advice we have included above. Here's some additional information you may find useful when planning your visit, including an open days checklist (907.5 KB) and questions to ask (646.12 KB) to get the most out of your visit. Find out more on our preparing for open days and visits page.
The day can go really quickly, so it’s important you structure your visit to make the most of the time you have onsite. Here are some questions to ask university staff, and some questions to ask yourself so you’ll be able to compare different universities and colleges when it comes to deciding on your final choices.
Many first years will be living in halls of residence, the classic uni experience – and each uni will let you know whether that’s guaranteed. There are other options too – read our tips on how to find the right student accommmodation for you.
Juan, 24, is a psychotherapy student at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN). He’s registered blind and has a guide dog.
I arrived at UCLAN’s open day with my sister. We flashed my blue badge at the parking attendant and he removed a cone from a disabled bay and waved us in. That struck me as a good sign: they obviously took disability seriously. Every question I asked that day got a positive response. The team could accommodate me and my dog, nothing was a problem. I had asked the same questions at a different university and the staff sucked their teeth and looked uncomfortable. That’s definitely a warning flag!"
Juan's top five tips for open days
- Don’t be afraid to ask awkward questions. The answers will help you work out if the university is willing to go that extra mile to support you.
- Go with somebody who knows you. It’s good to get a second opinion.
- Seek out useful people – disability services, student services, accommodation services – and say hello. If they know your face, it’s easier to ask for help when you start term.
- Talk to student ambassadors. The staff won’t know how noisy halls can be at 03:00, but the students will!
- Go with your gut feeling. I felt like UCLAN wanted me there and I was right. It’s a university, but it feels like home.