A ‘Disney’ Guide to Open Days
Disney has taught us a lot – that it is normal to burst into song, that magic is real, and that everyone needs a sidekick. Its wisdom even extends to university open days. How convenient!
1. Alice is very curious. Be like Alice.
After following a rabbit with a pocket watch (naturally) and finding herself in Wonderland, Alice’s first reaction is to have a little wander and learn about this new, strange world.
So, when you jump down a rabbit hole and find yourself at a university open day, try to learn as much as you can about your department, the campus and the wider area. Especially if it is an open day and not an offer holder day, try to explore every university like it’s the first one you’re visiting.
Sure, you’re unlikely to come across a Cheshire Cat – though at Warwick we have our campus cat, Rolf – nor a Mad Hatter. Nevertheless…
(The other day, one of my flatmates insists she saw ‘a brown thing with four legs – and no, I’m not stupid, it wasn’t a fox!’ run past her window. Was it Bambi?)
Though to avoid walking around in circles, it’s a good idea to come with a plan. That way, you can fit as much into your day as possible and cover everything necessary.
So, what should you make a point to discover?
Of course, your course is the most important thing, and so a significant part of your day should be spent in your department. You won’t be living there though (unless that’s your thing…), so take some time to explore the rest of the campus as well and start to get a feel of the overall layout. I suggest you have some sort of map when exploring the campus. Tours of the campus, accommodation and the wider town/city are really good!
For those who would prefer not to run 5 miles to a 9am lecture on minimal sleep and coffee (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME), some key distances you might want to consider are:
– The distance between accommodation and central campus****
– The distance between accommodation and the nearest supermarket
– The distance between accommodation/university and key bus stops and other transport links
****Note that I do not say ‘department’, as lectures tend to take place in different buildings around campus for that little sprinkle of variety.
Oh, and while we’re talking about Alice:
Don’t consume any questionable items, especially if they say, ‘DRINK ME!’, and definitely stay away from mushrooms 😉
2. Don’t judge a book (nor a university) by its cover
Take a leaf out of Belle’s book and take some time to form your opinion on whichever university you visit.
People tend to be quite opinionated about universities that they haven’t even visited, based on league table rankings and what their Aunt Marge heard from her neighbour John whose nephew goes to that university. At the end of the day, I would urge you to visit a university without too many preconceptions and focus on how it feels to be there.
Also, remember that on an open day, universities are really putting their best face forward. For the real deal, talk to current students!
Some questions to ask:
– What are two good things and two bad things about this course/university?
– What has surprised you about the course/university?
– What do you think are the main misconceptions about this university?
– Why did you choose this course/university? Have your expectations been met?
Now, we all know a certain crab likes to sing about all things SHINNNYYYY, but when it comes to universities shiny isn’t everything! As someone who was initially really taken in by new high-tech equipment at the universities I visited, I would say this: never prioritise the quality of facilities over the quality of research and teaching.
3. Do what feels right for you
Mulan did what she felt was right, even if it was against what was expected of her by her family and society. Now I’m not saying that you should rebel against everything and everyone, but to remember that at the end of the day, you should be able to imagine yourself at this university. Not your family, nor your teachers, but you.
So, if you go to an open day with your parents, you are the one asking questions. By all means, take suggestions from your parents about what to ask, but try to take the lead in conversations with students and staff at that university. That way, you’ll get an answer that is tailored to you, and not your parents. Plus, you can start making some connections at that university!
At the end of an open day, ask yourself this:
If I had to go to this university, would I be happy?
(Note that at this point it’s not about choosing between universities – so try not to compare them!).
If the answer is yes, then try to articulate why. Is it that the course really excites you? The societies available?
If the answer is no, then try to articulate why. Is it because there isn’t much to do on campus? No royal to sweep you off your feet?
Not too sure what your answer is? That’s fine, not everyone can be singularly focused on what they want like Ariel.
Open days are not only about finding out what universities have to offer, but also discovering and refining what you want out of your university experience.
If you’re reading this in your tower, wondering when your life will begin…
If you’re kneeling in a temple, staring at your reflection…
If you’re leaning on a rock, wanting to be a part of another world…
I assure you that you will find a university where you belong.