Why you shouldn't miss the chance to go on a uni applicant day

students chatting

Will you be happy living there? Take one more road trip to find out

How much do you know about the unis you’ve applied to?

You’ll have learned a bit from your early university research; reading prospectuses and websites, talking to current students. As your shortlist took shape, you’ll have headed along to a few open days to get an idea of what each of your picks is like.

Feel like enough? Now your application is in, you’ll be receiving invitations to applicant days as well. And, although you might have thought your research was done and that you can now get on with reaching the grades you need, making the time for another round of visits is a wise move.

More than an open day

Loads of people fall into the trap of confusing applicant days with open days, but applicant days are far more specific.

On an applicant day, you get to laser focus on your chosen course, spending a whole day digging into what it’s going to be like to study it there.

“Applicant days are more in depth,” says Sarah Fullwood, student recruitment officer at Aston University. “Whereas at an open day you get the ‘introductory talk’, an applicant day cuts straight to the good stuff, like what you are going to be learning – and who from – for the next few years."

Eleanor, currently studying for a history degree, found her applicant day visit completely changed her thinking on where she wanted to go. Her advice is to take advantage of applicant day opportunities – even if you’re currently not sure about the uni. “Come open-minded,” she says. “My open day opinion of the university I'm at was not good, but I changed my mind after the applicant day.”

What to expect

Applicant days vary by uni and course, but you can generally expect to have a talk about the course, as well as tours of the uni's facilities and accommodation. You'll meet the academics who might one day be your tutors and you’ll meet current students.

students on an applicant day tour

At UEA, for example, the day is divided in two. You'll spend your morning going on tours of the campus, halls and university facilities; tours that are run by current students.

Those students also give general talks about other aspects of university life, and you’ll have lunch with them and the course academics before spending the afternoon in your chosen school of study getting a feel for what it is like to study at that university.

"An applicant day is all about you being able to find out more information about your course and chat with current students and academics from your chosen subject of interest," says Francesca Uragallo, recruitment events manager at UEA.

"It is a chance to get one-on-one contact with the academic staff you will be studying under," adds TSR member lightergait. "Knowing your lecturers and who is leading your course is vital, since you don't want to come to university and find they are all boring as hell and cannot teach!"

On the road again

You’ve probably already toured the country doing the open day circuit, so more day trips might feel like something you could do without. But one day out of your schedule could make all the difference to your eventual university choice.

“Even though travelling is a pain, it's really important to visit the university at least once before deciding,” says Hevachan.

“You may turn up and hate it! I found my decision was made the second I stepped on campus. I was like, why did I ever consider going to my second choice when I could come here? 

“I also think it’s important to do the journey so you can realistically think about how far you will be away from home and whether you are comfortable with that.”

students in a seminar

Once you’re booked onto an applicant day, be sure to spend some time preparing. You’re going to be meeting people who know the university (and your chosen course) really well. So have a think about the things that matter to you and make sure you ask about them.

"Make a note of any questions you may have for the academics in your school of study, for current students, for admissions staff and so on," says Francesca. "This is your opportunity to gather all the information you need to make an informed choice about your degree."

“Do not go home with questions unanswered,” says Martin, an accounting and finance student at UEA. “There are so many people who can help you with anything you need to know.

“Some of the talks that you may think look boring, on topics like student finance and UCAS, give valuable insights. Make the most of it. Make a list of questions you need to be answered and don't go home until you have covered all of them!”

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