How to get the most out of University/IT open days
By Alan Bullock (Careers Adviser) |30 July 2015
Adapted from www.university.which.co.uk
Going to open days can help you make a well-informed decision about what and where to study.
We've been asking students and universities what they think is worth looking out for before and during an open day to get the most out of it.
And with mums and dads increasingly getting in on the open day action these days, we asked parents for their views too. Here's what made our checklist.
A successful open day trip is all about the preparation. Plan ahead by:
- checking out the courses you're interested in (you can do that on www.qualifax.ie and www.careersportal.ie)
- getting a feel for the layout of the campus – download or print out a map
- seeing where the university or IT is in relation to the town or city
- get a rough plan for your day – book up anything you need to in advance
- sketching out questions you need answers to – see our top questions to ask below for some ideas.
On the day
Maximise your time by attending:
- at least one or two subject talks, sample lectures, taster sessions or department visits
- finance or SUSI talks
- tours of the campus, accommodation and Student Union venues
- tours of the town/city itself
- some time to yourself to do any extra exploring
Back seat parents
Students need to make the final choice when it comes to the right course and university – so over-eager parents, take note! But if you're a student on an open day with your parents, don't leave it to them to ask all the questions – you'll be the one who will be living and studying here.
Your top priority: the course
The course should be at the top of your list of things to find out about at an open day. The end goal is to work out if it's something you really want to spend the next few years focused on, and will offer you the right opportunities. Get it from the horse's mouth – talk to lecturers and current students on the course.
‘Make sure you understand exactly what is involved in the course, modules and methods of assessment. The course should be the most important element of choosing where to apply.’ University Of Birmingham
‘It’s about understanding the structure and content of the course…
What will you be doing on a weekly basis, how many hours of lectures, what’s the balance between practice and theory?’ Melanie | Student
‘You need to ask yourself whether the course will suit you…
Does it suit your learning-style? My daughter chose a degree at Hull which includes plenty of assessment by coursework and not just examinations.’ Catherine | Parent
Top questions to ask:
- What does the course cover?
- How many hours a week will I be in timetabled teaching?
- How much flexibility is there?
- What assessment methods are used?
- What demands will it make on you?
- How will you learn?
- What’s the split between lectures, tutorials and self-directed study?
- What size are tutorial groups?
- What deadlines will you have to meet?
- Does it have the facilities you expect?
- What opportunities are there for you to broaden and deepen your understanding of the subject?
- Are placements or study abroad on offer, where are they, how are they organised, are they paid, how do they affect tuition fees?
- What are the pros and cons of taking a joint or combined course?
Questions to ask about your career prospects
Knowing what the degree course can offer you in the long-term is an important part of deciding if a course is right for you – now's the chance to hear about real-life examples of what could come next.
- How will the course make you more employable? Do they offer or arrange placements?
- What have previous students gone on to do after graduating?
- What proportion go on to postgraduate study? Do you need to a postgraduate course to get a job?
- Do they know what past students are doing two or three years later?
- What careers guidance facilities are there?
- Do they run job fairs?
Questions to ask about the accommodation
A lot of open days let you look around typical halls of residence. The likelihood is you'll probably be touring the best on offer, but it's a great time to do some fact-finding.
- Is a place in Student Accommodation guaranteed? What accommodation is available off-campus?
- What does it cost – and what’s included in that cost?
- Will you have to move in and out each term?
- What are the pros and cons of catered versus self-catered?
- How big are the rooms – are some bigger than others?
- How quiet are they?
- Can you put stuff on the walls?
- How secure is it?
- Do most students stay on campus at weekends?
- What happens in years two and three?
- How far will you have to travel to get into university/IT and around town?
- Can you bring a car?
Questions to ask current students
Don't be afraid to ask student ambassadors some probing questions, or politely approach a student on campus for a real-life student view of the university/IT and course. Swap notes with other visiting students.
- What are the best and worst things about university/IT in your opinion?
- How have you found the course so far – what are the teaching / facilities / support / field trips like?
- Are some halls of residence better or worse than others?
- What’s the town / city like?
Questions to ask about societies and things on campus
A big part of the university experience is the activities you'll get involved with outside the classroom. What's on offer here that will provide opportunities for you to develop your employability skills, contribute to college life or the wider community or extend your social network?
It's also good to get a feel for other day-to-day facilities available nearby – such as libraries, academic support, language centre, shops, banks, sport, cultural, creative, religious, recreational and entertainment facilities or whatever else you need. How close are these to where you'll be living?
Questions to ask about your everyday costs
This is another area that could be useful to discuss with current students who are already managing their finances.
- How do the costs actually break down? How much money will you need to survive?
- To what extent will you need / be able to find part-time work?
- What bursaries or scholarships are there and how do you apply?
- How do placements or a year abroad or a year in industry affect your costs or tuition fees?
- What's on offer in terms of cheap student deals / nights out / places to eat?