Pretty much every school with a sixth form along with every college organises at least one sixth form open morning/afternoon/evening/day.
They need to attract as many students as they can so it’s no surprise that they’re really keen to showcase what they can offer prospective students.
So, is it worth spending some of your precious time attending or are they little more than an empty public relations exercise?
And if you do go, what should you be looking for?
Should I go to a sixth form open evening?
Yes, definitely if you’re starting courses next September. Don’t make this important decision on reputation, the views of friends or your own prejudices. You really do need to find out for yourself.
And if you have a few alternatives go to them all if you can – keep your options open.
What happens at a sixth form open evening?
Typically there’s a speech by the headteacher, displays of all the subjects on offer and teachers and students around to answer questions. There’s advice on careers, admissions and usually free luke-warm tea, coffee and cheap biscuits.
What should I wear?
Anything that makes you feel comfortable – it won’t be a fashion show (unless a fashion show is part of the open evening!).
Do I need to bring anything?
Almost certainly not (but check the invitation and website to be sure).
Should I do anything to prepare?
It’s a good idea to think of some questions to ask – maybe about particular courses, the routine and timetable, length of classes, free periods, study facilities, numbers in a class, exam results, social events or opportunities to get involved in clubs, sport and drama.
Do I need to know what subjects I'm going to study?
No, part of the purpose of the open evening is to find out about different subjects so you make the right decisions. It’s a great opportunity to look at the different displays, talk to teachers and (particularly) students about what it’s actually like to study a subject.
What should I look for?
Every school or college will try to make a good impression. Floors will be polished, displays will not yet be dog-eared and teachers may even be smiling.
Try to look beyond the surface – does it feel friendly? Is students’ work displayed? Are students enthusiastic? Do you feel welcome?
Make the most of the opportunity to talk to current students. Although the students that volunteer to come in are likely to be enthusiastic, they will give you honest answers about lessons, workload, social life and anything else that you're interested in.
Should I go to my own school's sixth form open evening?
Yes, it may be a bit familiar but sixth form at your school may offer new opportunities and greater independence – it's worth finding out more.
Should I go to college or stay at school?
There’s no right answer to this question - it’s about what will work best for you and where you’ll be happiest. If you’re happy then you’re likely to succeed.
How do I apply to a college?
There will be an application form available at the open evening, online or by request from the college.
This will ask for your personal details, subjects you study, subjects you want to study and a bit about your future plans (don't worry if these are really vague).
Some colleges ask for a personal statement. Take a look at our advice on how to write it, including a few examples. You can also ask a question in our dedicated thread for sixth form personal statements.