A good open day experience isn't just about sitting meekly in lecture halls feeling overwhelmed (although that's a perfectly normal part of it): it's also about meeting, greeting and generally getting involved. In case you need a bit more persuading, we talked to the team at GSM London to find out why when it comes to open days, it really is the taking part that counts.
Find out what the campus feels likeThe way a university 'feels' is very important. This is where you'll be living and socialising, not just where you'll come to get a degree, so a good open day is an opportunity to meet the people living there already to get their take on things.
Unis like GSM London make people available to you on the day, so you can meet accommodation staff, admissions tutors, current students, course and career advisors. Think about what you really want to know beforehand and write some questions for them, they'll be very happy to help you. Can I become an astronaut? Was it easy to meet people at first? Are there ghosts? This is your chance to find out. (Note: whilst becoming an astronaut might be unlikely, do make the most of the course advisors to if you have a dream careers in mind.)
Sneak a peek at the study experienceAs well as letting you snoop around the site, many unis like GSM London will plan activities throughout the day that will give you an insight into the academic side of things.
That might mean going to a sample lecture, for example, or hearing a talk from the teaching staff about their subject. It all helps you prepare for your arrival, or lets you know if a particular uni's approach might not work for you.
You'll also get to meet the teaching staff, so find out what their interests are, how they like to teach, or if there's anything not on the reading list that they'd recommend to you. Academics dedicate their lives to particular areas of knowledge so they're usually very happy to talk about it.
Seek out the supportThere will be points in any student experience where you'll need a little help, whether it's with the workload, your health or maybe your career. That's when you might need to rely on student support services, so use open days to find out what's available and how to access it.
GSM London have dedicated course advisors, for example, who you can meet on the day, so you'll know the people who have your back and how they can help you. "I speak with people every day," says GSM London course advisor Kevin de Guzman. "Everyone I meet really values the assistance."
Explore the areaEven on a campus university, the surrounding area matters: you may want to explore, or you may have to live off campus at some point. An open day is a chance to find out exactly how close a uni is to nearby cities, and what's going on nearby.
It's also a chance to check out the facilities. Whatever your interests are, from mixed martial arts to Magic: The Gathering, you'll want to know that you can pursue them at uni, so ask current students, go on campus tours, and make sure you come away feeling like you know the place.
Keep it in the familyFinally, you're the one going to uni, but the experience is often one for the whole family. Open days are a chance for your family to find things out too, so they worry less once you're off on your own. Unis like GSM London know this, so they cater for nervy parents as much as they do students. "The campus was very nice inside and the staff were extremely friendly and helpful," according to one potential student's parents. "It was interesting to hear what the staff had to say, it was a rewarding afternoon."
So whether you go alone, with friends or with family, just remember that an open day is there to help you. At unis including GSM London there are plenty of people ready, willing and happy to talk to you on the day get involved and get the answers you want. And have fun!