Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

Open Days are a fantastic opportunity to visit a University to find out if it is the right choice for you. They provide you with lots of opportunities to ask questions, meet staff and students from across the University and discuss the wide range of courses on offer.

If you're able to attend an open day it's good to plan ahead, get your places booked and start the snooping process early. We put our heads together with the team at City University London to find out why.

Why plan ahead?

You'll find that most universities run their open days like slick, very friendly military operations. It's not just a case of flinging their gates wide and letting people wander around for the day – they tend to be well structured with various helpful talks, tours and activities to take part in (more about that below). There are usually a couple a year: at City University London, they're on Weds 2 July and Sat 27 Sept 2014.

Because open days are helpful they're also popular, which is why it's good to book your place early and bag a seat at any relevant presentations. Booking in advance is usually straightforward: at City University London, there's a helpful webpage that lets you do just that.

What happens on an open day?

This varies from place to place. At City University London, for example, visiting students receive a welcome talk from the Vice Chancellor to introduce them to the university and give them idea of what makes it tick. They can also attend presentations on finance and accommodation – both important areas to get your head around.

You might also get the chance to have a subject-specific presentation. It's an opportunity to peek into the inner workings of the uni and find out how they teach, where, and what facilities are available to students. Think of it as a chance to indulge your nosy side.

Going on tour

Open day nosiness continues with campus tours, which many unis – City University London included – offer as part of the occasion. Arriving on the first day of Freshers' Week to begin your student life can be pretty daunting, but if you've already had a good look around on an open day you'll feel more confident.

Also, your campus tour will give you a feel for the site you'll be spending three or four years on and they often take in the accommodation options available. Where you study, live and sleep makes a huge difference to your student experience, so take advantage of tours wherever possible; that way you can spot any nasties (bleak lecture theatres, dungeon-like bars, halls built on a hellmouth etc.) well in advance.

You might find that unis offer tours outside of open days, too. If you'd like to visit City University London sooner, you can find out more here.

The place

Student life isn't just about what happens on the campus, of course, so an open day is also a good time to investigate the area around a uni to see whether it appeals or not. Every uni has its attractions: at City University London, for example, students are in the heart of London and have access to everything the capital has to offer, with the added bonus of student discounts to play with.

You can find out more about the plus points of student life in the capital here.

The people

Finally, an open day is all about meeting the people you'll be living and studying with. You'll get a chance to speak to staff about your course, current students about their experiences, and maybe meet your future classmates. It all helps you get a feel for what life might be like there.

If you'd like to get to know the universities you're interested in attending, an open day really is one of the best ways to do it. Planning ahead and signing up early means you can sort your travel easily and fit everything around your school and holiday schedules, and you'll have plenty of time to prepare – as well as having plenty to look forward to on the day. Get booking, and enjoy!

You can find out more about City University London's open days here.