Photograph: Graduation at the University of Huddersfield, flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Congratulations! You’ve received your university offers and now have the tricky choice of narrowing them down to two (unless you’re lucky enough to gain a conditional offer you’ll have to choose one firm place and one back-up place in case you don’t make the grades for your firm choice).
Unlike Open Days, Visit Days are aimed at those who have already gained their places and have to whittle these down. Perhaps you're visiting a university for the first time, or perhaps you've already visited and are just making sure that the university is really right for you! You will be spending at least £21,000 and three years at one of these insitutions so it's good to get the decision right.
Your visit day might include:
- tour of the campus including the Students' Union, sports facilities, library and computer labs etc.
- tour of the accommodation
- a chance to visit the academic school buildings and speak to admissions tutors
- subject specific talks
- general talks about issues such as finance and settling in
Eluceo's advice to you is to do your homework and work everything out in advance. This might include working out which train you have to catch or how you are going to get there, printing out a map of the town so you can have a meander afterwards, and what questions to ask the admissions tutors and current students.
Questions you might want to ask admissions tutors might include (you may be able to find the information in the prospectus or online; if so, ignore all this!):
how teaching works- whether you'll be taught in lectures, seminars, or tutorials, how much of each and how many hours per week. How this will change over the three (or more) years, and whether you'll be taught by PhD or post-doc students at any point.
how assessment works- how much coursework is there, and how many exams are there? Are the exams after the completion of each module? When will this be? How often will you be assessed? How much does coursework or exams count for the final grade? How much does first, second and third year count for the final grade?
the syllabus- what modules are compulsory and what can you choose from over the coming years?
pastoral- how often you'll be in contact with your personal tutor, and how he/she will help you develop as an individual and build the skills needed to obtain that graduate job?
the department- what are the interests of your lecturers? (You may want to undertake your dissertation with a member of staff with a close interest to you in your final year).
the degree format- if you're on a traditional three-year Bachelor’s degree, how easy it is to change onto a four-year degree with a year abroad or a year in industry, or to an undergraduate Master’s degree if your university offers these? If there are students currently on a year abroad or in industry, what are they currently doing? (This may give you an indicator of the kind of experiences you'll have on your year abroad or in industry).
cost- if your course has costs attached to it, for example for Geography field trips or materials for courses such as Fashion Design/Architecture/Product Design you might want to know how much your yearly spend might be
Questions you might want to ask current students might include:
university feel- overall, do students like their degrees, the university, the campus? What do they like about it and what would they change if they had the chance?
sports- what sports facilities does the university have, what clubs can you join, be they for fun or competition, and how much do the facilities cost?
pastoral care- do lots of students get homesick or depressed and are there safety nets in place to help you cope? If you've a disability, such as a learning disorder, or difficulty with mobility, you might ask whether and what provisions are in place for this as well. How does the tutee system work and how to tutors help you develop through your university career.
societies- how many societies are there (approximately), and what sort of thing can you get involved in? You may be looking for a specific society to join at university, such as an orchestra or Amnesty International.
financial services- what opportunities are there for scholarships and bursaries, and are their any funds for the university to give you a leg up if you run out of money, especially if you come from a low-income family?
careers service- what does the careers service offer?
computers & libraries- when are they open and for how long?
finances & jobs- do students find that they run out of money, or are they able to live comfortably on their student loan? Are there opporunities for part-time work or volunteering?
accommodation- do the students like the university accommodation, and if they are in catered halls do they like the food? If they are in second or third year how are they finding life outside halls and are there lots of flats/houses available for students nearby? What is the rent like?
Photograph: student orientation, Jirka Matousek, flickr commons, CC BY 2.0
What should you wear?
Eluceo's advice to you is anything you are going to feel comfortable in. You might like to be a little smarter than normal, but no suits are necessary!
Should you bring your parents?
Eluceo would suggest that you go on your own, or with friends that have also applied to the same university - a visit day is a chance to be yourself and think about your own future. However, many of you feel more comfortable attending with your parents, who may also be that second pair of eyes to confirm your choice, and be reassured that you're attending a university you feel safe in.
Look around the town
Once you've attended the information sessions and asked all your questions, we advise you to look around the town. You might like to go out to dinner and see what the shops and like, and what cultural attractions there are. If you know where students stay in their second and third years you might like to walk around these ares and get a feel for the place. Try out the transport between the town and your halls and the university, and perhaps the sports facilities if they are a little way out.
How should you travel?
Our advice to you would be to plan ahead and take public transport. It's most likely going to be public transport that you'll take to and from university to your parents' house so it will give you a good indicator of how long an average journey might take. Again, you might be able to attend with friends and it's important that you book ahead and know which train/bus you have to catch.
If the university is far from your home, you might have to stay overnight. Book ahead - the university might be able to provide accommodation, or you might find accommodation in a B and B or Travel Lodge/Premier Inn. Staying overnight gives you the opportunity to visit the university and town in the night - especially if you've gone with friends you'll be able to experience the nightlife, and what the university experience has to offer.
If you can't make the visit day
Don't panic! Most universities now hold virtual open days with the amount of information available far greater than a prospectus, being supplemented by photos and videos. Some insitutions even have live chats so you can discuss issues remotely with staff or students.
One final note
If you are umming or ahhing over attending a visit day, I'd stress that you should go to as many as possible. You may love a university from the prospectus, and be set on confirming their offer, but find on a visit day that the staff are rude and the accommodation is too far away from where you'd be attending lectures. Or it might be that you don't like the university so much on paper, but you attend the visit day and the students are so friendly that you are instantly hooked on accepting their offer. In the end your choice comes down to the feeling you get when you walk around the campus...that 'wow factor' as they call it on Location, Location, Location.
And one last thing...
Remember - you don’t have to go to university if you don’t think it’s for you, so don't feel pressured into it by your school or parents. There are plenty of other options available to you.
For more information about visit days, please see our Open Days page.