University Open Day FAQs

What are they?

Open days are a way for a university (or other institution) to 'set out its stall' and give potential students (and usually their parents) a chance to have a look round and ask questions.

You will be able to see the department in which you hope to study, attend talks on student life and finance (for example) and usually go on a campus tour to include having a look at student accommodation.

If you have the time you could also have a look around the local area.

Open days are an invaluable opportunity for you to 'get a feel' for the place, far better than can be done by simply looking at the prospectus or the university's website.

When are they?

They are spread out throughout the year; it all depends on the individual policy of the university.

Dates should be advertised in your school or college (which will be inundated with posters advertising the dates!) and there are usually a few dates you can choose between.

Obviously your school/college could not display a poster from every institution, so you will also find dates in prospectuses and on websites.

In addition to this, there is a booklet available from UCAS detailing all the dates (this may be available in your school).

You would normally be allowed time out from school to attend an open day, but increasingly universities are holding them on Saturdays as well as during the week.

How many should I attend?

Well, obviously not all of them... At the start of your research you could have twenty or more potential universities on your list and you don't really need to visit that many!

Four or five is about right, after you have pared down your choices a bit.

It's a good idea to include at least one campus university together with one which is 'split site' to give you an idea of the difference between these two sorts of institution.

When should I go?

The obvious advice is to attend an open day BEFORE you have applied to the university, but it is surprising how many applicants don't do this!

It's also a good idea, if you are going to have to take time out of school, to start your visits in the first year of your A level studies.

Some universities time their open day for the end of the summer term, after exams have finished.

This can be helpful if you don't want to miss school, but the down side is that there won't be many students at the university and you might not experience the normal 'atmosphere.'

What if I can't attend on the specified day?

If, for some reason, you are unavailable for the official open day (for example if you have an exam or a field trip) it is always worth contacting the university to see if you can arrange a private visit.

Many universities appreciate that students will not always be able to make it on the day, and offer independent campus tours on alternative dates.

I know of one pupil from Kent who arranged a departmental visit at Newcastle University the morning after travelling there for a football match, followed by an afternoon visit to Sheffield University on his way back down the M1 - then cut across country and drove around the campus at Nottingham to have a look round!

What should I ask?

Obviously, you will have questions and concerns specific to yourself, but here are a few examples of the sort of questions you could ask:

  • How many places are available and how many applicants are competing for them?
  • How is the course taught? (lectures, seminars, tutorials, practicals?)
  • How is the course assessed ?(Exam based or continual assessment? or a mixture)
  • Is there any work experience or study abroad included?
  • If there is a work placement, do I have to find this myself or is it arranged by, or with help from, the university?
  • Do you recommend any type of work experience prior to the course?
  • Are all first year students offered accommodation? (including whether it is shared, catered or self-catering and how much it costs)
  • What facilities are available? (this could cover things like a health centre, sports centre, bank, cinema, internet access in student accommodation etc)
  • What are the local opportunities for part-time work during term time?
  • What will it cost?
  • Are there any scholarships or bursaries available and how and when do I apply for these?

It's always a good idea to try and talk to some current students, especially if they are doing the course you're applying for.

They can give you a really good idea of what it's like to be a student - both socially and in terms of workload.