Making the most of a sixth form open evening

sixth form open evening

What to expect and how to prepare

Pretty much every college and every school with a sixth form organises at least one sixth form open morning/afternoon/evening/day. 

They need to attract as many students as they can, so they're obviously keen to show prospective students what they can offer.

But these events aren't just important for the college - they're important for students too. Here's why you should go to a sixth form open evening, how you can prepare and what you can expect to happen when you're there. 

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 assumptions. You really do need to find out for yourself.

If you're deciding between a few colleges, go to all their open days if you can.

What happens at a sixth form open evening?

You're sure to get a speech by the headteacher or principal, and you'll probably hear from some of the tutors and students too.

After that, you'll probably get to explore the place. Expect to find displays of all the subjects on offer, along with teachers and students who can answer any questions.

You can get advice on careers and admissions and usually free lukewarm tea, coffee and cheap biscuits.

I've been to two, which were both pretty similar. 

First there was a talk in the assembly hall from the head teacher/head of SF/ head girl and boy about the school and why you should choose their sixth form.

Then you get a map and you can wander round and see all the sixth form areas, and all the subject areas and talk to the teachers for each subject - usually they have a mini presentation as well and leaflets about the course and stuff.


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?

Don't worry about wearing anything particularly smart or formal - it won't be expected. Just go in anything that makes you feel comfortable.

They won't be judging you at an open evening, just make an effort at your interview.


Do I need to bring anything to an open evening?

You won't normally need to take anything with you - but you can check the email invite and the college website to be sure.

Should I do anything to prepare?

It’s a good idea to think of some questions to ask. A few examples of the general type of thing you might want to find out about include: 

  • What are the school or college's study facilities like?
  • Does the school or college have any connections with local businesses for work experience?
  • What support do they offer with university or apprenticeship applications?
  • What kind of free periods will you have? 
  • How many students are there in a class?
  • How well have previous students done? 
  • What kind of extra-curricular activities or clubs will you be able to get involved in? 

As well as anything else you may be wondering about the school or college or the particular courses you're considering.

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.

We've got an article on The Uni Guide that could help you choose your A-levels, and you can hear from current A-level students on The Student Room 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. 


Sometimes a teacher that is genuinely enthusiastic about their subject can mean a lot.


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.


[At college] 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 find lots more discussion about secondary school, sixth form and college on The Student Room


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