Advice is something that every student is given every single year, from sixth form leavers telling you that "it's never too early to revise" or even "Don't stress, it's all going to work out in the end" (which is true!). But some advice that I feel needs to be explored a little further so that every student that is applying to university can make the best decisions for themselves, is what to expect from Open days. To make it simple I have narrowed it down to 5 points. Sit down, grab some coffee or tea and get advised by a student like yourself who just went to a bunch of open days not knowing what to expect.
Plan Ahead of the Trip
This might literally be stating the obvious but it's important to know when attending open days. Select the open days you want to go to, booking them beforehand to make sure they know you're coming and that you're interested in their university. Saving up some cash is also important, I mean I'm broke now but saving up that money definitely came in handy, not just for the transport but for the lunch and the possible unexpected costs that might come with visiting another city. With this being said book your train or coach tickets beforehand, they are usually much cheaper when bought a few weeks before the actual trip. By the end of September, I already knew which open days I was going to attend: Nottingham Trent, UAL and Derby. Better to know where you're heading than walking in blind, right? On a second note, don't expect to go to every single open day, a selective list is effective enough but if you feel that you need to go to a few more afterwards, you will still have time to visit the university by booking via their websites.
2. Universities are Different
After attending all three of those university open days, each of them were very different in their own ways. Understanding and identifying that there are differences will help you decide which one is the one for you. Take Nottingham Trent for instance, I personally loved the city, some parts of the university was great others not so great. The way they ran their open day was different from Derby and I'm not talking about the usual open day campus or accommodation tours. Nottingham was great and all, they achieved the purpose of informing me but did they invite me into their university? That's arguable. Derby, on the other hand, they invited, informed and introduced me to their university and the people there. To me, that shows a big difference between the universities. Knowing this will help you decide and be ready for open days.
3.Expectations vs Reality and Prestige over what feels right to you
This next point is so important to me and will help a certain group of people but is still worth mentioning. For those who don't know UAL – Central Saint Martins has a pretty big reputation in the fashion industry, being one of the hardest Universities to get into. It was my dream Uni ever since I was in year 11 but my expectations came to a close. Central Saint Martins was my second open day to attend and heck was I excited for it, I took a 3 am coach on a school night, dreaming about how good it was going to be (I know how ridiculous). When I got there, with not much of a greeting at all I was still excited. It wasn't till I was sat in one of their lecture rooms with a guy talking to us about how CSM is the hardest place to get into and if it ain't the one for you don't apply….okay he didn't say that but that's what he was leaning to. Definitely not inviting. You would think a university would be encouraging you to come, not making you think otherwise. As you can probably gather my expectations were not met, nor did I feel like it was the place where I belonged. But hey one good thing came out of it, I WAS IN CSM, I STEPPED FOOT IN THAT BEAUTIFUL BUILDING, emphasis on the building because I kid you not its stunning inside (if you’re into artsy, vintage but modern vibes). Anyway back to the point, don’t feel like you ever have to choose a university that has a high reputation because not all of them can really stand up to the rep. It is still possible for you to get the same opportunities at a university that doesn’t have high prestige. Most importantly definitely don’t choose a place that you don’t even feel is right for you, follow that gut feeling, honestly.
That brings me to the next point……
4.It’s not a cliché, you actually get a feeling when you know it’s the right one
So after Nottingham Trent and CSM open days, I was praying that this last university would at least be good enough for me to add to my choices. Bearing in mind that CSM was already out of the picture. When I arrived at Derby with my mum, we weren't really knowing what to expect but from the countless communications they had with me before like the prospectus us they posted (didn't remember ordering it but was very grateful), the open day pack that came a few days before and lastly the text saying "we can't wait to see you!"…had me feeling pretty positive. When we got there we were greeted with smiles, warm hands and before I realised it I already started to feel comfortable. As we spent more time there, with the lecturers and students telling us about their experiences and what Derby Uni represents and meeting my course teachers, I looked at my mum and she knew. She said to me "You like this place don't you?" I didn't even have to answer for her to know. Sounds so cliché but honestly, I wouldn't be telling you guys if it weren't the truth. I felt it in my heart or gut or wherever that feeling came from but I knew, I knew this is where I wanted to go. A few of my other friends have also had the same feelings with their universities, my friend went to a bunch of open days but when she spent a day at Manchester she just fell in love. Ew, I know. The same thing is very likely to happen to you. If it doesn't that's not to say you won't go to the right university for you because after you attend the university open days it should be clear to you which ones just didn't cut it and which ones could possibly be good for you.
Lastly but not least
5.Take advantage of the Open Day
There is nothing worse than wasting an open day. To make it worthwhile you need to enjoy it. Take advantage of the time you have while there, making sure that you're getting to see everything. I missed out on seeing the accommodation for Derby which may have limited me if I wasn't going to go there again. Take and enjoy whatever the university offers you, whether its free samples, course information or food… Take it! If the university its self ends up not being that great, enjoy and explore the city instead, that's what I did after CSM, my mum and I literally spent the rest of day roaming the streets of London. It was great. If you can view an Open day as a day off I guarantee you will enjoy it even if they are downfalls during it. So in three words the last advice for you is to Enjoy, Explore and Utilise your open day experience. (Okay so that's more than three words but you get the gist).
Thank you all for reading, I hope this advice sets you up for future open days. I could have written some more for you but I think 5 will be enough to allow you all to make the best decisions when applying and visiting universities. Good luck with your studies and achieving your aspirations, if you believe you can, what can stop you?