How UCAS conventions can you help you find your perfect uni

There are loads of UCAS conventions happening in the next month - events that are just for students like you who are planning on going to uni. 


Go to one of these UCAS fairs and you'll find most unis will be there, making them a great way to kick-start your uni research. 

Turn up well prepared and you'll come away with much more than just a few free pens, you might get the info you need to choose your ideal university. 

“UCAS conventions are the best opportunities for students to meet representatives from the majority of higher education institutions from across the UK – including those with specialisms and others they may have never heard of,” says Kevin Betts, University of Sussex

You'll also get the chance to meet current students, and chat to them about your preferred unis. “Student ambassadors can tell you what being a student is really like,” says Susie King, Middlesex University

Here, uni admissions staff from around the country share nine ways to get the best from a UCAS fair

1. Think about what you want from uni life

Before you get to the fair, you need to work out which unis you're going to talk to. One way to whittle the list down is to think about what you really want from your uni experience, says Paul Woods, Royal Holloway, University of London

"Ask yourself questions like: is there a particular interest or sport you want to keep up? Is there a specific area of your chosen subject you’re really interested in?" 

2. Begin your research before you go

“The more you prepare the better,” says Carole Castle, Sheffield Hallam University. “This is your unique chance to see the scale of choice and opportunity on offer to you.” 

Research the courses and universities online that you think fit with your academic and career aspirations. Double check entry requirements and how they match with your predicted grades. 

The uni website won’t tell you everything. "Make a note to find out things like how the course is delivered and assessed or are there any opportunities for work placements or to study abroad,” says Rebecca Walsh, Bournemouth University

3. Plan your questions


“Write down a list of questions you may want to ask before you go,” says Syed Zaidi, London School of Business and Management. “These events are always busy, so prioritise the questions that are the most important to you in order to get the best answers from all the universities you speak to.” 

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4. Decide what questions to ask

Questions about applying for particular courses and uni life are a great place to start. "Ask specific questions about entry requirements, personal statements, the city, and student lifestyle as well as other more personal questions that you may have been wondering about like 'can my friends come to visit me'," says Charlotte Hall, Liverpool Hope University
When you plan your questions, make sure the answers you’ll be getting will help you shortlist the universities you want to visit on open days. 

Remember, the brilliant thing about these fairs is that you can compare sand contrast. “You can ask the same questions to a range of universities which will help you to begin the process of knowing where or what you want to study,” says King. 


5. Write down the universities you want to speak to

“Universities love a prepared student,” says Betts. So make sure you have a list of who you want to speak to and find out where they’re going to be on the day. 

Be prepared to have a conversation with members of the university community. As well as asking key questions that are important to you, consider finding out what makes their university unique, what their specialisms are, and the kind of things students go on to do after graduation.

6. Remember you could end up talking to someone really important

There’s no way of knowing who will be representing the university on the day so make sure you act the part when walking round the fair and talking to unis. You don't want to blow your big chance. “The staff on the stands can range from student ambassadors to admissions staff, and even academics," says Hall. "They could be making the decision on your application."

7. Give yourself some time to wander around the fair

“Make the most of the event by walking around the whole venue. The university you hadn't even heard of yet could just be the one for you,” says Castle. 

Rachael Cole, Anglia Ruskin University adds: “Don’t just follow your mates around. Take your time and visit the universities that interest you. Random prospectuses and freebies are cool but try to be selective. 

These things weigh you down, lugging around 20 prospectuses is a full-on workout. Instead, if you’re really keen on a university after you’ve finished your day you can go online and order a prospectus to be sent to your home. 

8. Attend a live subject talk


Make sure you find out which subject talks are planned for the day and add them to your schedule. These give you the chance to spend time digging deeper. “It's an in-depth opportunity to explore the subject you’re interested in and ask questions rather than be crowded round a stand,” adds King. 


9. Make sure you write down the answers

It will be a busy day so make sure you’ve already planned a page in your notepad for each university you speak to. “You will be speaking to a lot of people so it’s good to be able to remember who said what,” says Hall. 

This information will be really helpful when you start pulling together your shortlist of the universities you want to visit during open days.


You can find out the dates of future UCAS events on the UCAS website.