However, the day can zip by pretty quickly, so how can you make the most of the experience and come away with all the info you need? We asked the experts at the University of Hertfordshire for 10 helpful tips:
1. Make sure you go if you can
If there's a chance to attend an open day, try to take it: doing so enables you to get up close and personal with a university before making a commitment. "You get a chance to 'test drive' the facilities, visit the lecture theatres, meet current students and tutors and really get a flavour for what the university has to offer," says Brandon Pazitka, marketing officer at the University of Hertfordshire.
2. Plan ahead
Open days usually have a full programme of events, so visit the university's website to find out what's on offer and decide what you'd like to do. "There are plenty of opportunities and activities throughout the day," says Brandon. "Information about our open days is available online beforehand."
3. Prepare some questions
Most universities (including Hertfordshire) will put people at your service to answer queries during the day. Make the most of the chance to gently grill them by coming up with some questions in advance and writing them down, so you don't forget to ask anything vital.
4. Look beyond the course
Don't forget to investigate other aspects of student life beyond your studies. For instance, at Hertfordshire sessions on student finance, accommodation, studying abroad, joint-honours programmes, placement years and leisure activities are all provided. "If you want to find out about a specific area, you’ll be able to!" says Brandon.
5. Meet some students
There's no better way to find out what it's really like to attend a university than to speak to the people who are there right now. Most universities will give you the chance - don't be afraid to meet and greet. "Student ambassadors are central to the running of our open days," says Brandon. "It's a great way to get first-hand information about the uni."
6. Talk to teaching staff
You're entrusting your mind and future education to the academic staff, which means it's good to say hello beforehand. You don't need to get into hefty debates, but asking questions about the course, the subject matter and even their teaching style will give you an idea of what to expect.
7. Be nosy
Take the chance to have a good snoop around the whole site, including student residences and any sports and social facilities. Lots of universities, Hertfordshire included, offer guided tours, which are ideal for getting the feel of a place. "It's definitely worth checking out the facilities and accommodation," says Brandon. "You may be studying here for three or four years so you want to know that you'll be comfortable in your surroundings."
8. Bring some moral support
Don't feel comfortable exploring on your own? Don't worry, it's perfectly natural, and many universities will let other people join you. "You're more than welcome to bring friends and family along to our open days," says Brandon. Parents may be keen to see a place for themselves anyway, and a little friendly company can help you relax and get more out of the day.
9. Take your time
Picking a university is a huge decision – no pressure – but luckily, open days are there to help. Try not to rush them and spend the whole day on site if you can. "Our open days are designed to enable attendees enough time to get all the information they need about their subject area of interest," says Brandon. "They can then spend the rest of the day exploring at their leisure, or participating in general talks and tours.”
10. Enjoy yourself!
The main thing to remember about choosing a university is that it's actually pretty exciting, so don't be afraid to enjoy it. Universities want you to have a good time on an open day and go away feeling happy. "The main aim of our open days is to help students in their decision to attend university," says Brandon. "We hope the experience will be a positive influence on their journey into higher education."