University open days are a fantastic way for you to figure out if the university is for you, they help you get a taste of university life that you can’t get from a prospectus. This year in person visits to campus may be out of the window, but universities have been working hard to ensure you can get the full experience online from the safety of your own home.
Virtual open days consist of virtual tours, presentations, photo galleries, interactive webinars, and chat functions that allow you to speak to current students and staff members to help you find out all you need to know about the university.
No longer will you have to worry about the cost of travel and accommodation to university open days, you’re now free to go to as many open days as you want from the comfort of your sofa. You can visit universities that may have otherwise been out of reach for you, and could even use this as an opportunity to virtually visit universities abroad. Even if you only have a few hours to spare, without geographic restrictions you can explore the entirety of campus, talk to lecturers and students and pop into presentations with time to spare.
Universities tend to run a whole series of open days throughout the year, if you’re unable to attend any online open days universities, universities host live Q&As with current students throughout the year, on their website and social media channels so you can find out more about the university. Often universities allow prospective students to go on unofficial campus tours and explore the universities themselves, if interested make sure you contact the university first to discuss if this is permitted with current coronavirus regulations.
It’s important to remember there’s no pressure to accept a place at university without seeing it in person first. With the situation constantly changing universities may well have an in person event such as an offer holder open day or distanced campus tours, dependent on government restrictions before you have to pick your firm and insurance choices.
Here's eight ways how to make the most of virtual open days:
1: Do your homework
Make sure you book your place online before the open day, the university will then send you all of the information you need to prepare yourself such as the seminar timetable and information about how the day will run.
Before the event look at the timetable for the day and make a schedule of the talks and seminars you’re interested in. At the virtual event you can use the chat function to speak to representatives from the university, so make sure you come with a list of questions you want answered. Asking questions over the chat is less daunting than asking them in front of a packed lecture theatre so feel free to ask questions until you have all the information you need.
2: Attend talks and lectures
You can make the open day anything you want it to be and create your own unique timetable. Most departments run sample lectures and seminars to help you get a feel for what you’ll be learning. Universities also hold talks and Q&As with students on topics such as personal statements, admissions, studying abroad, careers, funding, student finance, and life at university.
3: (Virtually) Explore the Campus
If you’re going to be spending three years of your life at university, you need to make sure the campus is what you’re looking for. Virtual tours aren’t a full replacement for a physical tour but they help you to get a feel for the campus.
The university team will be on hand for you to ask questions about the facilities, campus security, and travel around campus. Take advantage of the student Q&As and ask current students what they like about the university and what sort of events the Students Union runs. Use Google Maps and Google Street View to get a feel for campus.
4: Visit Your Subject Stand
You’ll be spending at least three years studying your course so it’s important you’re interested in the modules and the teaching and assessment methods. Speaking to lecturers and students manning the stands is a great way to get an insight into your chosen course. You will be able to ask them specific questions about course content such as the modules taken, admissions, teaching and assessment methods, class sizes, and find out what past students have gone on to do. This is also an opportunity for you to find out what kind of student the university is looking for and if there’s anything you can do to make your application stand out.
You can also find out more about study abroad and placement year opportunities. There are often faculty specific study abroad exchange programs along with university wide destinations. For some university courses you will need to decide now if you want to take a placement year, so make sure you find out if you can choose now or later to do a year abroad/placement year.
5: Speak To Current Students
There will be lots of student ambassadors helping out at the open days, you will be able to speak directly to them through chat functions or by asking questions during webinars. Students are the best people to ask about life at university as they know first-hand what it’s like. They were once in your shoes so are more than happy to help you. Try to ask students specific questions to get answers you can’t find on the website such as what their monthly budgets are and what they love about the university. Make notes on the answers you get at each open day so you can look back and compare universities when choosing your UCAS options.
6: (Virtually) Visit University Accommodation
As you won’t be able to walk around the accommodation blocks universities have put together interactive tours and videos to show you what your room could be like. A big advantage of this over physical open days is you don’t have to worry about walking to the other side of campus to explore different accommodation blocks, you can easily view them all. If you are interested in living off campus instead of student accommodation use Google Maps look around the general area that you could be living in. Use a route planner to see how long it would take to walk to your course building, the nearest supermarket, town, or any amenities. The accomodation team will be on hand to answer any questions you have about halls or living off campus.
7: Scope Out The Town
You need to ask yourself if you’d be happy spending 3 years living in the university town/city. Often people move to a university for the course alone and find that living in a tiny town or large city makes them miserable, it’s important to consider both the location and university. Universities will put together presentations and videos about the town covering the nightlife, transport, and food & drink, and shopping. Use Google Maps to explore the town and see where you could be living.
8. Sign Up For Updates
At the end of the open day make sure you’ve signed up for newsletters and to receive more information from the university. Follow the social media channels for the university departments you’re interested in, they host Q&As with students and behind the scenes tours throughout the year.
Ready to sign up for an open day? Browse through our university open day calendar
By Clarissa Ducie