How to make the most of university open days

University open days are extremely important however they can be a bit overwhelming. People left, right and centre asking you everything and anything. Open Days are one of the best ways to decide on which university you want to go to and whether you want to go at all!  

So here are some things you can do to prepare yourself and more importantly, enjoy yourself. I remember my open days and if I had done just some of these things,… WOW would I have had a smoother day. 

First steps…  

Before you arrive at the university creating an itinerary for yourself can be vitally important, believe me! You want to take a look at the open day timetable and circle anything you feel like you want to attend. Whether this be a course talk or an accommodation viewing. My tip would be to try and do as much as possible while you are there. I would also try and schedule in time to take a walk around the city to see what there as. As at the end of the day this is the city you will be living in. 

I always think getting there earlier is better than getting there later, this way you can really make the most of your day. Some of the helpers and subject tutor leaders will be tired nearer the end of the day, so you probably won’t get the detail they might have offered in the morning.  

Let’s talk about the elements of your itinerary you should include (some are more obvious than others). 

How are you getting there?  

It is so important that you are clear on how you are getting to the open day, with this there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. How long is the journey, if you weren’t to take a car, how much is it on public transport? Finally, is public transport regular enough, or do you need to set yourself a time that you need to finish for so you can make the next train? 

So, my advice is that if the journey via car is a difficult one and you are not too sure where you are going but the train is reasonably cheap and not too long of a journey, get the train. Think about it, university open days are very busy! You don’t want to run the risk of not being able to park or even worse you get caught up in traffic and you miss some of the talks you wanted to listen to.  

However, just to be extra safe, I recommend that you jump on a train just a little bit earlier than the one you need to get because this will allow you a bit of time if you do encounter a delay. Of course, if you are a bit early you can take time to walk round the university yourself. Unfortunately, sometimes trains can be astronomically expensive which isn’t too ideal. So it might be that you opt to take the car, this is what I did to all my open days and let me tell you, planning is essential. We will talk about this a bit more later. 

What time are you getting there?  

As I mentioned before it is wise to set off a little bit earlier than what you need to just to allow yourself a little bit more time if you do encounter a delay. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you are travelling a long way to get to the university, it might be an idea to look at nearby hotels or Airbnb’s that you could use for a night, this just means you aren’t doing as much travelling within one day. Beware though, if you are going to try and stay somewhere, book early! If I was going to suggest a time for you to arrive, I would suggest, earlier the better, obviously don’t rock up at 5am, but get there for the start time, this way you will probably get best pick of all the freebies too! 

How do you get to the university once you arrive (if you don’t travel by car)? 

It is certainly best to have a quick look at this, you don’t need to pre book anything because we all know how easy uber is and usually universities have people based at stations who will get you on a bus or at least point you in the right direction. However, I know a friend who didn’t do his research and ended up jumping in a taxi outside the station, turns out if he had just taken a look at his maps, he would have realised that the walk to the university was only 10 minutes. I’m sure the taxi driver was laughing it up.  

This is why though people it is important just to take 5 minutes to check out how you are getting to the university if you aren’t travelling by car. Other than ubers and buses another thing to look at is trams, I know from where I went to university the trams are right next to the station and its only £2 to jump on. Quite often trams can get you just as close to the university as an uber could. They are also a great way to see the different stops along the journey so you can gain an idea of where things are if you were to go to that university.  

Where are you parking when you get there?  

Parking is the last thing you want to think about after you have arrived there, unfortunately though you need somewhere to park. Now, there a few options for you, you can either park for free however you maybe a short walk away from the university because if you choose this option, you might have to find parking down a residential street. Alternatively, if you are looking at a city university as opposed to a campus university, you will have to find parking within the city. This usually means paying. If you are looking at a campus university you maybe in luck, they might have a car park that you can use freely. Some car parks can fill up quickly, especially on an open day. I suggest pre booking at a car park and definitely get there early. To make this step a bit easier, check out what the university have to say, they will recommend some nearby car parks that you can pick from.  

Next steps  

This next step is where the real fun stuff happens, this is the whole reason you have come to the open day. The way to make the most of you open day is to work out what you want to do and what time you need to be there. Universities will usually send you a pack with a timetable of all the things going on during that day. Fortunately, if you can’t make one thing because you are doing another, there are usually more than 1 showings of certain talks going on.  

I recommend highlighting or circling all the slots you want to go to and find out more about and they would usually, be you course, accommodation and university facilities. Try to prioritise talks about your course because you can see and read up about accommodation and facilities online, whereas you course is only covered briefly online. However, if you do have time, do get yourself on one of the tours of university accommodation and the university facilities. This will help you to really get a feel as to whether you could see yourself settling in here. Some universities will even be doing courses of the city the university is in.  Especially with the accommodation, let’s just say pictures of accommodation can often be deceiving…. 

Final steps  

You will be glad to know the final step is here. Take some time on your journey home to really think about if the university suits you, does it meet your values? Is it close enough to home? Is it far enough from home? There are loads of different factors to consider.  

A technique I always used was talking to my parents, I took them with me on my open days and they helped me to decide which university really suited me best. This little chat can be done with anyone you decide to take, but it is definitely useful to take some time and reflect, maybe even write a pros and cons list.