10 things you should ask about at an Open Day

Hello, my name is Jonah and I’m a year 12 student (going into 13) at the Chase Sixth Form College in Malvern. During Sixth Form I will be going through the application process in order to apply to university for entry in September 2015. But there is a problem: I have to decide which universities I want to go to. The list is so huge and with 37,000 different course available, I want to choose the right one. To help me with my decision I shall be visiting Open Days to try to expand my knowledge of universities so that I make the right choice. However, after visiting a couple of them already, I realised there are a few things I want to know about, but I am not told in adequate detail.

screen-UOW_1074-140711University life is one of the most important chapters in many people’s lives. But out of that one life choice spawn so many other critical choices: where do I go? What do I study? And all of these raise even more choices!

Open Days are here to answer questions and help guide you to the right choice. Open Days give you so much information about uni life and courses, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of it all. So here’s my top 10 things I think everyobody considering university should investigate at an Open Day

1)      Awards the University has achieved.
We are at the Open Day because we are interested in studying, living and socialising there. If we are planning on dedicating 3-5 years of our lives at this institution, then we should try find out what it has achieved and why it beats the others. I want to know if the course/uni/area is outstanding by seeing all of these rewards. I want to have no regrets about my choice because I want to learn from the highest achiever, the best of the best.

2)      League table standings for each individual subject.

It’s dangerous to overly rely on league table positions (they only measure a few elements of university life), but finding out about the ranking for each subject can help gain a better perspective of the university. Obviously it is easy to get these up online, but that means individually searching each subject and remembering the order. Don’t forget to ask about this because it makes comparisons much easier and could give you inkling to what type of students come to the university.

3)      Employability stats.
One of the reasons why university exists is so that graduates can improve their employability opportunities; knowing the percentage of graduates who are employed or in further education within 6 months helps show the value of the course compared with other courses you might want to take. Having the tutors tell you about the job market for the sector you want to go into is also important, is it in demand? Is demand falling? Is demand rising? In 20 years will there be any jobs in this sector? Make sure you ask such questions at the Open Day, it gives you some perspective about your future career.

4)      How their course differs from other courses.
Courses differ from uni to uni so why is this institution better than others? Choosing a subject that has a very broad spec needs much research on deciding the uni. You know you like the subject but which part of the subject interests and excites you the most? If you want to branch out into a specific area of a subject, then it is best to look at which course offers the most relevant teaching.

5)      Average number of applicants and spaces.
Knowing how many spaces a course has and roughly how many applicants a year there are for that particular course, helps you put it all into perspective. You know the grade boundaries but so do all the other applicants. Knowing your chances of getting in will help ease disappointment if your application is denied and elate you if accepted.

6)      Nearest City and places to go out.

Fun is a key reason of university life. You need to know the area, you need to know the most common places around because you will be living there for the next years – that will be your home. Investigate as much as you can, ask the tutors, the student ambassadors or the SU representatives.

7)      All accommodation standards (cheapest to most expensive).
Chances are that for the firstyear you will be living in student accommodation with new flatmates. Looking at all the possible areas you could end up living in is useful because different prices and standards of living can make a big difference.

8)      Clubs, Societies & Students’  Union.
People always rave about the amazing opportunities uni offers you outside your subject in the form of clubs and societies, but at open days it can be hard see any evidence. I thought open days would be the perfect place to learn more about the range of activities and clubs, but I have not seen much information at all on the ones I have been to, so please ask about them. We have all heard of a Students’ Union, but we don’t really know what it is. I found that talking to a student ambassador gave me the best insight to the SU and what they do.

9)      What makes this uni different?

City, campus, coastal or rural? Your university has to suit you and what you want. The geographical aspects of an area heavily impact choice of university. Some people don’t want to be close to home, others might. Geography can also impact your studies, for example, it would be quite hard to study Marine Biology with Ocean Science in Derby, but much easier in Plymouth.

10)   Find out what the University’s most renowned area is (which subject has the best reputation).
League table mean nothing. It’s all about the credentials of the course you choose. Oxbridge may be the top, but Marine biology with Ocean Science may be far worse there than at a university which is further down the table. Knowing where the course stands rather than the uni as a whole, is very important and should impact decision making. Knowing what the university is best at also lets you know how much support you will receive, the quality of teaching and the amount of students on the same course as you.


Now you can visit your next open day with an open mind and ask about all the forgotten queries you want answered.