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What is a UCAS fair?

UCAS fairs (sometimes called HECs, or Higher Education Conventions) are big events, held all over the country, which many people will visit during Y12. They’re usually run by UCAS, and you can find information about upcoming events here. In a nutshell, they involve most universities in the country sending along one or two members of staff / student ambassadors to a large space (often a sports hall or convention centre). They will then talk to prospective students, answer questions, and hand out literature such as prospectuses. You’ll also find other organisations there such as student finance and gap year companies, as well as organisations looking to recruit bright school leavers, such as the military.

How Can I Make the Most of It?

90% of prospective students don’t get as much out of UCAS fairs as they could do, and this is invariably down to a lack of research. Many students spend their time asking university reps ‘do you do my subject’ or ‘what are the entry requirements for my subject’. These are things that you could have found out on the website, and so asking these questions is a waste of time for everyone. Remember, you will only have a one or two hour slot, and university stalls are usually very busy, so it’s important to make efficient use of the time available.

So, before you go

  • Use UCAS course search to find out which unis offer the subject you want to study
  • From this list, remove the ones where the entry requirements are not broadly in line with what you’re expecting to get
  • Think about what’s important to you in a university, and therefore what questions you want to ask in advance. Occasionally a student will take along a list of questions and ask the same questions of multiple universities. Whilst this is arguably a little prescriptive, their organisation and preparation is to be admired!

Do also be aware that UCAS fairs aren’t a replacement for open days – there really is no better way to get to know a uni than by actually going there and getting a feel for it.

Take a large, strong bag – you’re going to be picking up lots of literature from universities, and it can start to get very heavy, very quickly! Try not to be completely indiscriminate in terms of the literature that you pick up – if you know you’re not interested in a particular uni, there’s no point in weighing yourself down with an additional prospectus.

How to Ask The Right Questions

  • Remember that the reps are unlikely to have an in depth knowledge of your degree course – they’re general student recruitment staff, not academics from your department (though you might luck out and get a student ambassador who’s on your course!), so questions such as ‘what modules are available on the sociology course’ are unlikely to be met with a full answer. This is particularly the case when they’re from a non-specialist uni with a large number of courses…
  • …however, they do know their uni and city very well, and they very often can answer some of the more obscure questions, so it is still worth asking.
  • Try to think of specific questions – questions such as “what’s Northumbria like?” are so broad as to be unanswerable.
  • Try to ask questions that can’t be answered with a couple of minutes on google

Examples of good questions

  • Is there a programme that will allow me to use free choice modules to study a language?
  • What’s the nightlife like?
  • Am I guaranteed to get a place in halls? Is this the same if I put your uni as my insurance choice?
  • How important is the interview in deciding who gets a place?
  • Is the university all based on one campus? If not, which campus would I be taught at? (This can be very important – for instance, some Manchester Metropolitan students live and study in Crewe, not Manchester)
  • Can the university cater for my disability?
  • What sports facilities are on offer? Is there a society for my sport?
  • What bursaries do you offer, what are the eligibility criteria, and if I meet the eligibility criteria am I guaranteed to receive the bursary?

Of course, you should remember that the staff there are paid to say nice things about their university, and so you should always make sure that beyond the ‘my uni is awesome’ type responses that you get, you’re sure it’s the right uni for you

Seminars

There will also be seminars at the UCAS fair, on topics such as

  • Student Life
  • UCAS application process
  • Student finance
  • How to choose a course / uni
  • Subject specific seminars e.g. nursing and politics

These can be useful, but do consider if they're the most effective use of your time. For instance, you should be able to find out about student finance online.

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