Making the most of a sixth form open evening

sixth form open evening

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.

At my sixth form open day, the principal went around in disguise without anyone knowing who he was and performed magic tricks with a piece of rope.


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!).

They won't be judging you at an open evening, just make an effort to your interview. For the open evening probably don't wear a slouchy hoodie or something but almost anything else will be fine.


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.

Our feature on how to choose your A-levels might also come in handy, and you can ask any burning questions in our A-levels forum, too. 

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. 

I thought a lot about the subjects as well as the social/academic balance of the various sixth forms; it served me well as a strategy since I love the college I'm at right now.


I'd say choose the place that you feel comfortable in, but also one that will ensure you get good grades and get into a good uni. 


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. 

Obviously if a place is significantly better or offers different subjects/courses you want to take then you should 100 % go, however if you just fancy a change you should make sure you feel comfortable where you are going.


I love my current school as I've known the teachers for so long and they all know what I'm capable of and I can stay with my friends


We have no dress code, no patronisingly being forced to call teachers ‘miss’ and ‘sir’, you get to meet new people and generally have more liberty. It's closer to a uni experience than a school one. 


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


Ask a question in the A-levels forum
Your question will be posted in the A-levels forum
Awesome! Your question has now been posted. View your post here
  1. Please choose where you want to post your question.
    Please choose your study level.
    Please enter what your question is about.
    Please enter your question.
    Your message must have two characters or more.
People are talking about this article Have your say