An Open Day is a day in which the university opens its doors to prospective students so they can get a feel for the institution. In this way you can decide whether a university really is right for you. They often happen in the Summer and Autumn, ready for UCAS applications in the Autumn/Winter.

Once you've compiled a list of suitable universities, the next step would be to go and visit them. If you are organised and you have the time, you could make a road trip out of it, travel across the country with friends, either by train or in the car. Some universities let out their accommodation in the summer and this is a good way to experience what living in halls might be like. You need to whittle down your choices to a realistic number, but it has to be large enough that you'll end up with some you like and small enough that it's affordable and do-able. 

We would stress to visit the university you ultimately decide on, as you might find that it's not quite what you thought from the prospectus. 

The Peel Building at the University of Salford

Image Credit: Richerman/wikimedia

What to Expect at an Open Day

Open days vary from university to university, and they may include:

  • a tour of the campus, along with any facilities, such as the Students' Union or sports facilities
  • a tour of the accommodation
  • a chance to visit the academic school buildings and speak to admissions tutors
  • subject specific talks
  • general talks on issues such as finance and settling in

Making the Most of Open Days

To make the most of an open day, it is a good idea for you to go with some questions prepared. It is also a good idea to take a notebook with you to note down things like what you thought of the accommodation or what sorts of course modules there are. If you note down any positives or negatives you come across during the day it will really help you make up your mind. Also, take lots of photos as these are a good way of remembering what the place actually looked like as after you've visited a few they will all start to merge into one!

If you've got the time, also look around the town or city, to get a feel for the place. After all, you will be living there for at least three years and you'll want to enjoy your experience as much as possible. 

Visit Days/Post-application Open Days

If you applied over the Autumn and received an offer, you will be invited to attend a 'visit day' or 'post-application open day'. These are similar to open days; they allow you to  explore the university's facilities and accommodation. They will also be more tailored to individual courses so can often be more useful than pre-application open days. 

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Open Days in Clearing

If you’ve gone through Clearing and been offered a place at a university you quite like the look of, you might want to think about visiting at a Clearing Open Day. Most universities hold Open Days the week after A-level results come in, to give you the opportunity to see what they are all about and help you make your mind up.

Although Clearing is competitive, universities set a deadline date so don’t feel compelled to accept a place straight away. Take time to make a decision, and one of the ways in which you can make your decision is by seeing the university in person. This gives you the ability to see what the place is actually like, and if you find it’s not for you it’s better to have found this out before you started your course and the prospect of spending three or more years there! 

Just like other open days, you’ll get to find out more about your course, and what it’s like to live and study at the university and city. You’ll be able to view the accommodation options; meet admissions tutors; meet current students and hear about their experiences; view facilities such as the Students’ Union; and look around the surrounding area and town.

You’ll also meet people in exactly the same position as you, and be able to speak to them about how they have found the Clearing process. 

If you think in advance that you might not get the results you hoped for, universities list their Clearing dates on their websites in advance. If you are organised, search the unis you might like to attend which have Clearing spaces so that you can phone them up as soon as your results come in, and make the time to be able to visit them.