Choosing which Uni to go to is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. If you haven’t already signed up, here are 9 good reasons to go to the Open Day of all of the Unis on your short list.
1. Get the inside story on your chosen course
Search out and talk to students who are already doing the course and the options for which you are thinking of applying. Is it what they expected and if not, what was different? Do they find it stimulating? Is it well taught? How much time is spent on lectures, seminars or tutorials – does that seem like value for money to you? Remember, the course is one of the most important factors determining whether you will stay or drop out of Uni- if it is not what you are expecting, better find out now.
2. Check out the other students
Whilst you cannot expect to get on with everyone on your course, you need to feel that you could be mates with some of them, at least! Make sure you chat to existing and prospective students, and not just about work. Find out what they do in their spare time and where they hang out. Can you see yourself spending time with them? If you feel like a fish out of water on the open day, you may need to reconsider either the course or your choice of Uni.
3. Check out the tutors
Try and speak to as many tutors on your course as you can. Are they enthusiastic and engaging about their subject or will a lecture from them send you to sleep within minutes? Ask them about the course content and modules in detail. Find out how much time is spent with students, how quickly work is marked and how feedback is given. Also use this opportunity to ask them what they look for in applications. Oh yes, try and leave them with a positive impression of you!
4. Explore what it’s really like to live there
You need to get a feel for everyday life at each particular Uni – and each will be different. Find out where students live and make sure you visit at least some of those areas. If university accommodation is available for the first year, will you be able to afford to rent somewhere after that? How far is it likely to be from your digs to the Faculty? How long will that take, how much will transport cost, can you get home safely late at night? Talk to the students who are already there about their experiences of accommodation, travelling at night and the social life. You might love the town or city but if you cannot afford to live there, will you really get the most out of University life? Similarly, if you are drawn to a campus university but there is no long term on-site accommodation, will you still enjoy the benefits of the campus after your first year? Don’t be seduced by the pubs, clubs or restaurants, or the fact that it’s the home of your favourite football team. Be realistic- will you be able to afford to do what you want to do and can you see yourself living there on a cold, wet Thursday in February?!
5. Find out how well graduates do in the job market
Whatever course you choose, it’s important that you will be able to get a decent job at the end of it – and some Universities are better than others when it comes to finding that ‘to-die-for’ job! Don’t be afraid to ask the tutors what skills you will learn on the course or how the course will help you to get a job. You should also find out what sort of jobs recent graduates have gone on to do and whether the University has links with industry to help students get work placements during the course. Make sure you ask the students what the careers department is like and whether many companies visit to promote graduate job opportunities. If no-one seems very interested in life after Uni, think twice about going there!
6. Take a look at the facilities
Make sure you get to see the library, the Student’s Union, sports facilities and any other facilities or buildings where you are likely to be spending time. If they are a bit run-down, find out if they are due to be upgraded. If no-one is using them, what does that tell you about them?! Are they close to the accommodation and your faculty? If not, how much time is going to spent travelling?
7. See what extra curricular activities are available.
Most Universities have lots of societies and clubs but if you want to pursue a particular interest, it’s worth checking that it is available. But don’t just look at what you are currently interested in; University is all about exploring new ideas and interests so do take a look at what else is on offer. Maybe you could learn a new skill, try a new language, have a go at acting or take up a new sport? If you are inspired by the list of clubs and societies on offer, that’s probably a good indicator of how vibrant University life will be there. If not, it might be time to review your options.
8. Will you be able to find part time work?
As more and more students need to work whilst at Uni, you need to know whether there are plenty of part time jobs in the area. This can really matter if you need to find your own accommodation at some stage, as you may need to pay rent all year round. Many students feel that if they are paying for their house during vacations, they want to live in it during that time. But if there are no jobs in the area, you could end up not only paying for an empty room but also for the journey home in order to find work. Try and find out what proportion of students work part time whilst studying; at some universities, most students can afford not to work – how will you feel about slaving away in Starbucks whilst they spend all day drinking there?
9. Is it worth the journey?
Last but not least, you need to know how long it is going to take you to get to the University of your choice and how much is it going to cost. Make sure you travel to the open day in the same way that you would travel if you were going there as a student. There is no point in getting your parents to drive you to the open day, if you will be going by coach or train each term. How frequently you make the journey will be up to you, but if you can’t afford the time or the money to make the trip as often as you might like, then think very seriously about going there. It may seem like a good idea to choose somewhere at the other end of the country, but if it is going to take 8 hours on a coach with all your kit will you feel the same way in three years time?
If you haven’t got your act together and need to find out when Open Days are being held, click here.