Advice for Open Days
Now that summer is truly here, and for many people, exams are finally coming to an end, it seems everyone is thinking about what they’re doing next year. For a lot of prospective students, this is the time of year where you travel the country far and wide, attending university open days, and accruing more free pens and pamphlets than you thought possible. Open days can be really fun- the prospect of university is really exciting and there are so many opportunities to learn about! However, they can also be quite overwhelming, so I though I would some of my “good” advice for how to survive and make the most of them.
1. 1. Be open to the idea of university
This might seem obvious, however, I remember clearly how little I enjoyed an open day at Bath University, finding reasons everywhere as to why I did not like it, because I was still uncomfortable with the idea of making the jump to university. It was only when I visited Warwick and St Andrews, during my final year of sixth form when I was more confident, that I really enjoyed open days, and even though I didn’t go to St Andrews, I still found my trip up there exciting. Given the opportunities to start an apprenticeship or go to straight to work after school, it seems more and more people are realising that university is not the only choice. However, in the same way, I think it is important to look into every option, including university, with an open mind. If you attend an open day with the attitude that you don’t want to go to university regardless of where it is, or what you are doing, it is likely you will not like what you see.
2. 2. Weather
Rain. Snow. Fog. Let’s be honest, just because the university open day season is in summer does not guarantee sunshine and heat in the UK, and I honestly believe this can massively impact the way you perceive a university. Moreover, as someone who loves Warwick, I can admit that some parts of the campus are not very picturesque. Warwick was built in the 1960s, so whilst we have very lovely teachers and opportunities, the buildings can be quite modern and grey, and when the weather is bad, it can appear quite unwelcoming. Therefore, you have to imagine the atmosphere when the weather is good and look through the drizzle to see how Warwick could be the place for you, regardless of the humanities building.
3. 3. Attend more than one session
One of the most important aspects of the open day is the department run meetings, which offer an insight into the course structure and content, and potentially offer you the chance to meet members of the department and actual students. Obviously, finding the right course for you is extremely important when choosing your university, therefore try and make the most of these sessions (maybe even be THAT person who asks a questions), and leave, with a bag of free stuff, feeling you could study that subject.
However, I imagine a lot of people are still struggling to determine what course they want to do, and that is absolutely normal, and can be helped by attending more than one subject session. Whilst I was pretty certain that I wanted to study languages, it was only after attending the English literature meeting that I knew I could not do poetry for another three years! Moreover, given more departments are creating dual-honours degrees (where you study more than one subject, for example Economics and Languages) it might be worthwhile seeing if there is a combination you had not considered that could be the course for you by combining two of your favourite subjects, or allowing you to study something you have never done before, such as economics or philosophy.
4. 4. Talk to People
Many of the student bloggers would say this is the most important aspect of the open day, and I am totally in agreement. One of the best insights into life at university is how current students feel about it- a prospectus can only tell you so much! Everyone has individual needs that a university can satisfy, however, you need to ask about something to find out. Going on a campus tour can help with this, as they are run by Warwick Students who can answer the weird and wonderful questions you have that will help assist your decision. However, if like my family, you are horrifically impatient and like to have finished an open day before lunchtime (not joking, we left for the Warwick open day at 6 in the morning and were home by 1, and we live two hours away!!) then you can find answers to questions by talking to the army of students stationed around the campus. I also found it really helpful to find out why they didn’t go to other universities they had offers from, you’ll probably find they applied to similar universities that you have.
Another important conversation you should be having is with the professors. It was after hearing that the Spanish department pride themselves on being an open and family-like community that I knew I wanted to study with them. However, I understand that many department sessions, like maths and English literature, are huge, and it can be quite hard to have individual conversations. Therefore, many departments offer drop in areas, which are less formal than a presentation in a lecture hall, where you can ask questions with the staff and current students. For me, this was really important, as it made me far more comfortable with the idea of learning beginners Russian and Italian after talking to the department.
5. 5. Explore as much as possible
University is about far more than just academics, and an open day should be able to show you that. In your first year you will be living on campus, so you should explore the areas around the campus that will become major parts of your social life, to ensure you could be happy here. This includes exploring the Student Union, which offers restaurants and nightlife, the local shopping centre Cannon Park, which has a Tesco that you will likely shop from, and maybe Tocil Wood, which is a lovely area to walk and have a picnic. However, I think you should also explore the surrounding towns, such as Coventry or Leamington Spa, as you will spend a lot of time socialising off campus, and you might even live there in your final years.
So, there you have it, my advice for open days. I think I can condense it all into one sentence: say yes to everything and try and discover as much as possible. The more you know about a university, the easier it is to imagine yourself there, and see if you could be happy studying at Warwick, or another place.