Should I bother going to an open day?

Student looking questioning

“Would it be risky to apply for universities that I haven't been to an open day for? As I think this may have to be the case for most of my choices,” asked TSR member amyanne98.

Busy parents and long journeys were becoming big obstacles to visiting unis. Member Sinatrafan replied: "You can learn more in 30 seconds of visiting a place than hours of reading about it; feel is really important when it comes to university."

Here are five things you need to think about before sacking off the open day:

1. Get a feel for the place

Open days give you a taste of what life at university will be like, something a glossy prospectus cannot do. You’ll get to walk around the campus and really envision yourself there. The vibe you get can be a real deal breaker, it could be so not you. It’s difficult to get a true feel for a place from behind a computer screen. Throw yourself into it – explore and see how the university makes you feel. What does your gut tell you? Will you be happy here?

“Open days can completely change your mind on things. I was 99% set on my firm choice before I had visited. My view on the uni was based on what I’d been told. After open days I ended up putting a completely different uni altogether.” Lucabrasi98, TSR member

“Remember, this is a place you will be spending at least three years of your life so it is crucial for you to be comfortable in your surroundings.” Jamie Bradford, outreach manager at De Montfort University.

2. Your lecturer could be a total drag

Speaking to the people who will be teaching you will give you a big indication to whether you are making the right decision. You’ll be able to attend mini-lectures and talks and see examples of work from students currently on the course you’re applying for. On paper your course could be perfect for you but once you’ve met the lecturers and experienced the course style you might not feel the same. Every university will be slightly different even if the course has the same title, the content and teaching style will vary.

“The academics and staff at open days can give added insights on the right course for you – with a different perspective that you might not have considered and that might impact on your future career.” Lynne Barrow, associate dean at University of Hull.

“There’s only so much you can learn from how the course looks on paper. In my case, one uni’s course looked awesome from the website but I didn’t like it when I visited it. The second uni I visited their course looked less interesting but I really loved it when I went.” Plagioclase, TSR member

3. It might be a dump

Accommodation and uni facilities are going to be made to look absolutely amazing on the website and in the prospectus. Checking out halls, the library and facilities with your own eyes is a far better way to get a true idea. Open days are a great opportunity to see what it’s really like so don’t waste it.

“Open days are very important. You don't want to end up being stuck somewhere you hate.” Doctorwhofan98, TSR member.

“Some students may attend with a very definite idea of what they want to study but for others it is an opportunity to gain a greater idea of the range of courses available – including some opportunities that they may not have considered before, or even knew existed.” Mandy Pine, open day manager at Nottingham Trent University

4. Current students could have big secrets

Who better to give you all the inside information than the students already there! Open days are a great chance to speak to students who are doing your course. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to find out what they do and don’t like about uni life, how they’re finding their course and what to expect during Freshers’ Week.

"You can spend time talking to current students about what it is really like to live and study there. You can talk to the staff that will be teaching you and experience what it will be like to study your chosen subject and explore where it might take you in the future." Carol Castle, head of UK student recruitment at Sheffield Hallam University

"It's worth visiting some that you normally wouldn't consider. The uni I'm starting in September I almost certainly would never have considered before I went to an event there and loved it!" Aph, TSR member

5. Your future coursemates might not be your cup of tea

Talk to other students attending the open day; they could end up being your future coursemates. You can see what they’re thinking and if there are people similar to you applying, giving you a good sense of the sort of people doing your course. You could even make a few contacts and some friends before you start. Or you might find the type of people applying for your course are not the sort of people you think you’ll get on with.

“Once you've been to the open days you'll have a clear list of universities that you are longing to go to.” Jenny Rees, director of student recruitment at University of Hull

“The open day visit did help me form my opinion and I am glad I made the effort to visit them." Marked Target, TSR member

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