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Are you a UCAS fair noob?


Uni staff can spot them a mile off: roaming in large groups, nabbing the freebies from each table but, crucially, not asking any questions.

Trouble is, when they get back to school with their uni-branded bag full of trinkets, they realise they're still just as clueless about where to apply.

Don't fancy being that kind of student? Avoid these pitfalls and you'll come away from your UCAS fair with a few less free pens but a much better idea of what you want to do with your life.

1. Don’t turn up unprepared

Do your research before you get there. Loads of students turn up to UCAS fairs without really knowing why they are there. Try to turn up with a long list of unis, based on your preferred course and locations. You can then spend your time whittling that down into a short list.


Write down any key questions so you don't forget them. "Don't ever think your question is not worth asking," says Charlotte Hall, Liverpool Hope University. "No question is too small or too silly; the staff on the stand will certainly have heard it before. It’s often finding out the answers to the small things that can make a big difference."

2. Don't bluff your grades

Be realistic about the grades that you expect to achieve. It’s great to be ambitious but it's not worth your time to collect information about medical schools if your predicted grades don't cut it.


"Make sure you know what grades you’re predicted. It’s not rocket science and universities will expect you to know this," says Rachael Cole, Anglia Ruskin University.

3. Don't make presumptions

Going to a UCAS fair is your opportunity to dig into the detail about universities, by asking the people who really know. Don't be shy to mention other universities in your conversations. By saying "I'm also looking at xyz uni", the people on the stand can help you understand the differences.


Don't presume your life will be the same, no matter which uni you pick. Ask each uni about what life is like there. It will help you understand things like whether you want to be at a big or small uni, in a city or a town, out in the sticks or in the heart of the action.

More on TSR:

Making the most of a UCAS fair

Our complete guide to applying to uni

Search for uni courses on The Student Room


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4. Don't waste time with unis that don’t offer your subject

It’s OK to only know a general area of study, but there’s no point spending ages with the London School of Economics if you want to study engineering.

5. Don't follow your friends

"Students miss out on speaking to the universities they’re really interested in because their friends aren’t going to those stands," says Paul Woods, Royal Holloway, University of London.


Unless you have exactly the same subject, location and grade criteria, you're going to be much better off leaving your mates for a while and going it alone.

6. Don't let someone else talk for you

Remember you're the one that will be going to uni. If you do go along with a friend or a parent, make sure they're not picking the unis you talk to or asking the questions on your behalf. If you've not got all the answers you need, stick around until you do.


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7. Don’t assume you’re talking to an admissions tutor

Universities send a team of representatives to fairs, some will have a background in sales or marketing whereas others might work in admissions or education. This means one person may be entirely comfortable giving very detailed advice whereas someone else may simply hand you an email address with a smile.

8. Don't ignore other students' questions

Question markSome uni stands might be hugely busy, but if you don't get a chance to ask your own questions straight away you can instead listen to the answers other people are getting. You'll probably find the students in front of you will ask some (or all) of your questions.


"Make sure you make notes as you listen, the more insight you get the easier it will be to decide which universities you want to visit on an open day," says Simon Jenkins, Keele University.

9. Don't grab every single prospectus

Prospectuses may be glossy and pretty, but they're also heavy - especially when you're lugging around 10 of them. "Consider whether you really need a prospectus," says Kevin Betts, University of Sussex. If you decide afterwards that you would like one, you can order online and have it delivered to your house for free.

10. Don't become a spam magnet

When you turn up, you'll get a card with a barcode to wear round your neck. Make sure you tick the 'send me info' box, so the unis you like can keep in touch. Each uni will then scan your barcode to add you to their mailing list. But don't feel obliged to let a uni scan you if you're not interested, they won't mind.


More on TSR:

Our applying to uni guide

Ask a question in our applications and UCAS forum

Writing an excellent personal statement in 10 easy steps

Create your Personal Statement with our brilliant builder tool

Everything you need to know about applying to uni


Find dates for upcoming UCAS fairs on the UCAS site.


Are you going to a UCAS fair this year? Add your questions or experiences in the comments below.