University open days are a great way to help your son or daughter decide which university to choose. They can be somewhat overwhelming and also not all open days are created equally, so in order to help your child get the most out of their visit, we have put together this guide from a parent’s perspective. A lot of people ask if visiting potential universities is worthwhile, personally, I feel that by exploring the campus and surrounding areas my child is better placed to determine whether they can really see themselves studying there for at least the next three years. They can also get a good understanding of the courses offered. A University visit is a great experience for any prospective students and the perfect opportunity to narrow down their university choices.
It seems like only yesterday I was writing about choosing a Secondary School, I can’t quite believe that we are at the stage of University and all that entails.
A Parents Guide University Open Days
There are lots of guides written for students for getting the most out of University Open days, but not many from parents perdepctive. It can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t been to University yourselves. This parents guide to university open days hope to demystify and give you some useful hints and tips.
Are University Open Days Visits Worthwhile?
A lot of people ask if visiting potential universities is worthwhile, personally, I feel that by exploring the campus and surrounding areas my child is better placed to determine whether they can really see themselves studying there for at least the next three years. They can also get a good understanding of the undergraduate courses offered and what makes that university best for them.
A lot of Universities are back offering Undergraduate open days for the first time in a couple of years and speaking to students that had to make the decision based on virtual tours and open days every single one of them says that they wished they could have visited before the start of their stay even if just to experience the “feel” of the University.
When should you do the Visit?
Personally, I think Year 12 is perfect, we have friends that have done some visits in Year 11 as an incentive to learn and also some that left it until Year 13, which was a challenge with the mock exams and timescales for applications. We did the majority of our visits over June in Year 11 knowing that there were also later visits in September and October if we needed them. Also remember, that many universities offer virtual open days now (a legacy of the pandemic).
It isn’t all about the course
We found that so much of the information on the degree subject and specific courses is offered online, including the entry requirements and tuition fees. In fact, most of what makes the university experience so rewarding isn’t just the course it is everything else including the university accommodation (they spend a lot of time there – do they want to be in catered or self-catered accommodation, ensuite, halls or private accommodation). It helps to discuss these things before you visit as a family.
Do they want to do a placement year (work experience) or a year abroad? If so then factor in visiting the stands to talk through. We found that the stands were much better ways to get information than the talks about it as they were manned by lecturers, current students or the administrative department and could respond to any questions we had.
Tips for getting the most out Of University Open Days
Remember this is your child’s university and therefore, allow them to take the lead, do the research and ask the questions. You are there to support them and trust me the number of eye rolls I saw from kids when their parents took over was immense!
- To start do not book the open day visits for them, ask them what universities they are considering and want to visit and let them book them or book them together. This sets the expectation that they are in charge and you are there in a supporting role. However, I would also advise doing your own research, checking out parking (if you are driving), making sure dates work for you and printing off any open day guides (they get these emailed to them).
- Depending on how many universities your child wants to visit and their locations, then it can be expensive to visit all the universities they are considering, however, when you think of the cost of attending university it is a worthwhile investment. It still pays to do your research and book any travel or accommodation early to get the best deals. The same goes for any hotel booking. Some Universities such as Durham offer an event bursary, so make sure to check if your child is eligible. Also, see if you can car share with any other local children visiting.
- Get there early and let your teen plan the day but steer them to look at things they can see and people they can interact with rather than just the subject lectures. We found we got so much information from the student advisor who are often first year students even the ones not doing the same subjects he was looking at. They are a great source of information about university life and student life. Make a beeline to the department of your choice first whilst people are at the welcome talks and make sure you check the facilities such as halls (accommodation options), the Student Union and Library or Sports Center (Maxi is very sports focussed so decided early on that this was important to him as was University sports teams, so we talked to them).
- Be prepared for a lot of walking, Take water or a reusable cup, we loved that some of the universities have green credentials are don’t use disposables. We didn’t stop to eat on any of the campuses firstly, all the cafes and restaurants were super busy (expect for there to be about 10,000 people visiting), but also we wanted to use our time wisely, so take a snack and eat when you are finished.
Once you have completed the open days then the hard work of choosing the right University, the right degree course and university applications start. It helps if you jot down the key information after each visit whilst it is fresh in your mind. If you found this parents guide to university open days helpful, then please let us know in the comments.