What to expect on Uni Open Days And How To Make The Most Of A Virtual One

Uni open days can be a daunting experience and at first you might feel like you’d rather sit them out altogether, especially since most open days are now virtual.

But virtual or not, open days are actually very useful and if you can figure out which questions you want answered and what you want to know about the particular university you are visiting, the open day can be an important contributor to your decision of where to apply and for which course.

Uni open days will usually start off with a tour of the city and/or campus, which is almost the most essential part of the whole day. This will give you a feel for the place and allow you to picture yourself there. Often, our instincts are our best judges, and you’ll know right away if a place is right for you. Usually, you’ll be shown round by a current student, meaning you can ask questions as you go about all things, ranging from the pastoral care to the club scene to (of course most importantly!) the academic courses. Bring a parent/sibling/friend or whoever you most want along for the tour; this can be super helpful as they can also get a feel whether they think it’s the right spot for you.

There will often be talks and seminars, and sometimes even a fake mini lecture, designed to give you a flavour of ‘lecture’ life. If you know what course you would like to do, some sample courses may take place at that faculty’s department, allowing you to ask focused questions about that specific course. I know what you’re thinking- asking questions in front of a crowd of people you don’t know in a lecture theatre? No thank you! Never fear, because if you fall into this bracket (as most people do), there are chances to speak to staff and students before and after the talks, often in a more relaxed environment whilst people mill around outside the lecture theatre drinking coffee and eating biscuits.

A good tip I was given was to really think about what I wanted to gain from the open day before going. So, if you want to know how many modules are compulsory when studying Computer Science in your first year, ask! And if you want to know what proportion of English Literature consists of seminars and lectures, ask! And ask too how many of your modules will be taught in-person or online.

Obviously in the current COVID climate, virtual open days have started happening and seem to be the norm. For these, it’s essential you know how to access the open day and then how to navigate it online. It may be that you need to be more organised about booking certain talks. Virtual open days can include anything from online seminars, video virtual tours, to chats with existing students or lecturers and so are still very useful. UCAS advise planning the virtual open day the way you want to - it might be good to have your own agenda for the event, do you want to take a virtual tour of the campus first or join a morning seminar?

Visiting universities overseas, such as the popular half term October US college tours, are now sadly completely out of the question and in this case making sure you are organised about your virtual open day is key as it will be your only chance to get a good look at the campus and to get your list of questions ready for the admissions team. And when ‘on’ campus, try to imagine yourself as best as you can at that university.

All in all, I couldn’t recommend attending a university open day more; even virtually, they’ll give you a real feel for the place, allow you to ask questions to university staff and students and you might even meet someone destined to be your best friend for the next 3 or 4 years!

Upcoming open days in September (all virtual are), a.o:

16-17 September 2021 University of Cambridge

17 September 2021 University of Oxford

13-17 September 2021 University of Bristol

18 September 2021 Imperial College / University of Durham

For US universities, virtual information sessions and campus tours are organised almost every day and you can book a slot that suits you online.

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