How to use virtual open days to choose your university

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Online open days can be a convenient way to compare unis

If you want to take a closer look at a university but can't make it to a open day, virtual events can help you get a feel for the place without actually visiting. 

Online open days mean you don't have to travel across the country to visit universities – and you can attend as many as you like, which could help you compare a wider range of options.

Here’s how you can make the most of virtual open days and use them to help you make your choices.

What is a virtual open day?

A virtual open day is an online university tour that should go some way to replacing attending an open day in person.

The exact content will vary depending on the university, but virtual open days may include interactive videos to show you things like the campus, its facilities and the accommodation.

These videos will be up on each university’s website so you can view them whenever you like. Ucas has a comprehensive list of virtual tours and videos from universities and colleges here.

Plenty of universities will also run virtual Q&As, webinars and talks – you should be able to get details on these from the university websites. If you missed one, you could instead email the admissions department with any questions.

How should I prepare for a virtual open day?

Just as with a regular open day, you’ll get the most out of a virtual one if you have a bit of a think about the questions you need to be asking yourself – and the university – beforehand.

Here are some ideas of the type of thing it might help to think about.

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Make sure that the course fits with your learning style

Read the university’s course description to find out how it’s taught, what methods of assessment it uses and the amount of contact time you’ll get.

You’ve probably got a decent idea of how you learn best – if you prefer an interactive style and can’t stand exams or self-study, for example, you might want to go for a course that has plenty of seminars, lots of contact hours and is mainly assessed through coursework.

Get a good idea of which facilities will be available to you

The virtual open day tours should include a look around the facilities, such as the library, the student union, sports and any course-specific facilities.

You’ll want to get a clear idea of what you’ll have access to – for example, is the library open 24/7 all year-round? This will be handy if you prefer to study at night.

If your course uses specialist equipment, find out whether you’ll be able to use it whenever you need to, and check if it’s industry-standard.

Find out about the accommodation

Sure, a virtual tour should give you a decent look around the accommodation – but you’ll also want to check things like how much it costs and what’s covered in the price.

And bear in mind that a virtual tour may make the accommodation look a bit better than it does in real life. It might be a good idea to ask current students at the university for their thoughts on what the accommodation is really like, too.

You’ll be spending quite a lot of time in your halls, so make sure you choose a university with accommodation that will best suit you, your budget and your lifestyle.

Think about what kind of area you want to live in

First of all, would you rather live on a campus or in a city? Both have their pros and cons, so it can be tricky to choose between the two.

On a campus you’ll just be living with students, whereas in a city you’ll be in amongst a wider range of people. If you go to a city university, you’ll probably have to do a lot more travelling to lectures and social events – which could end up costing a fair bit of money.

You could also consider things like how far away from home you want to be, whether you’d prefer a coastal location or somewhere inland and whether an area’s transport links will make it easy for you to visit friends and family. 

Weigh up your job prospects

Getting a job at the end of your degree may feel like a long way off, but it’s still a sensible thing to consider.

In a Q&A session, you could ask about the specific types of jobs that graduates go into, to give you an idea of how likely the course is to help you achieve your career goals.

Find out if it also offers thing like work placements, industry accreditations, guest lectures, field trips and professional qualification, too – anything that could boost your future CV.

Check out the student union

The student union acts as the student representative body, as well as being the base for the university’s various societies.

Societies can be a great way to make friends, explore your interests and add skills to your CV – and student unions can also potentially have a big impact on how the university is run.

If the student union isn’t included on the virtual tour, you can take a look at the university website to get a feel for what it’s like instead. You’ll be able to tell that it’s an active student union if it has lots of busy societies and sports clubs to choose from.

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Speak to the students

If the university that you’re interested in is hosting a virtual Q&A with current students, it’s definitely worth attending. They’ll be able to give you an unbiased view on student life there, and you can find out whether they’d recommend the course or university.

And even better if you can talk to students taking your specific course. You could ask them, for example, what they like about the course and whether they have any advice for anyone thinking about studying it.

If you have a question about a specific university, you can also head over to our forums to get a reply from someone studying there.

Go to an applicant day next year

Once you’ve submitted your Ucas application and universities have (hopefully!) started offering you a place, they will probably also invite you to an applicant day.

These generally take place in the springtime after your application’s been made, by which time you might be able to make an in-person visit.

Applicant days are a bit different to open days as they’re specific to your course, rather than being a more general tour of the university. You’ll probably meet your future tutors as well as current students, giving you the chance to ask really in-depth questions about the course content.

You’ll also be able to take a look around all the places you saw on your virtual open day – so you can make sure that the reality matches up to the videos before you make your firm choice.

More useful links

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