An Open Day is a day in which the university opens its doors to prospective students so they can get a feel for the institution. In this way you can decide whether a university really is right for you. They often happen in the Summer and Autumn, ready for UCAS applications in the Autumn/Winter.
Once you've compiled a list of suitable universities, the next step would be to go and visit them. If you are organised and you have the time, you could make a road trip out of it, travel across the country with friends, either by train or in the car. Some universities let out their accommodation in the summer and this is a good way to experience what living in halls might be like. You need to whittle down your choices to a realistic number, but it has to be large enough that you'll end up with some you like and small enough that it's affordable and do-able.
We would stress to visit the university you ultimately decide on, as you might find that it's not quite what you thought from the prospectus.
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What to Expect at an Open Day:
Open days vary from university to university, and they may include:
- a tour of the campus, along with any facilities, such as the Students' Union or sports facilities
- a tour of the accommodation
- a chance to visit the academic school buildings and speak to admissions tutors.
- subject specific talks
- general talks on issues such as finance and settling in
Making the Most of Open Days:
To make the most of an open day, it is a good idea for you to go with some questions prepared. It is also a good idea to take a notebook with you to note down things like what you thought of the accommodation or what sorts of course modules there are. If you note down any positives or negatives you come across during the day it will really help you make up your mind. Also, take lots of photos as these are a good way of remembering what the place actually looked like as after you've visited a few they will all start to merge into one!
If you've got the time, also look around the town or city, to get a feel for the place. After all, you will be living there for at least three years and you'll want to enjoy your experience as much as possible.
Visit Days/Post-application Open Days:
If you applied over the Autumn and received an offer, you will be invited to attend a 'visit day' or 'post-application open day'. These are similar to open days; they allow you to explore the university's facilities and accommodation. They will also be more tailored to individual courses so can often be more useful than pre-application open days.