Open days

Top questions to ask at a university open day

By Alan Bullock (Careers Adviser) - 03 June 2013

People putting their hands up to ask questions

An open day is your best opportunity to uncover what you really want to know about courses and universities; the stuff you won’t find in a prospectus. It’s also the only way you’ll really get a ‘feel’ for what studying (plus maybe living and socialising) there is going to like.

With that in mind, here’s our checklist of questions you could ask - as shared with us by students and parents fresh back from open days themselves…

Questions to ask about the course

This should be your top priority line of questioning – we've set some ideas out in our guide to getting the most out of an open day.

Questions to ask about applying for the course

This could well be your chance to speak directly to the admissions tutor you'll later need to impress with your UCAS application. Make sure you ask any questions the university website doesn't answer.

  • What grades do you need – and can you still get a place if you don't quite get the grades?
  • Which qualifications and combinations of qualifications do you accept / prefer?
  • If they use the UCAS tariff, will they count all your qualifications?
  • Is it worth applying for more than one course?
  • How do they select which candidates to make offers to?
  • What do they look for in your application and personal statement?
  • Can they recommend any reading or activities to inform your personal statement? 
  • Do they hold interviews or is selection based on your UCAS application?
  • How do they feel about gap years and deferred entry applications?
  • Is it an advantage to get your application in early?

Questions to ask about your career prospects

Knowing what the degree course can offer you in the long-term is an important part of deciding if a course is right for you – now's the chance to hear about real-life examples of  what could come next.

  • How will the course make you more employable? Do they offer or arrange placements?
  • What have previous students gone on to do after graduating?
  • What proportion go on to postgraduate study? Do you need to a postgraduate course to get a job?
  • Do they know what past students are doing two or three years later?
  • What careers guidance facilities are there?
  • Do they run job fairs?

Questions to ask about the accommodation

A lot of open days let you look around typical halls of residence. The likelihood is you'll probably be touring the best on offer, but it's a great time to do some fact-finding.

  • Is a place in Halls guaranteed? What accommodation is available off-campus?
  • Would a place still be guaranteed if you made the uni your insurance choice?
  • What does it cost – and what’s included in that cost?
  • Will you have to move in and out each term?
  • What are the pros and cons of catered versus self-catered?
  • How big are the rooms – are some bigger than others?
  • How quiet are they?
  • Can you put stuff on the walls?
  • How secure is it?
  • Do most students stay on campus at weekends?
  • What happens in years two and three?
  • How far will you have to travel to get into uni and around town? Can you bring a car?

Questions to ask current students

Don't be afraid to ask student ambassadors some probing questions, or politely approach a student on campus for a real-life student view of the uni and course. Swap notes with other visiting students.

  • What are the best and worst things about uni in your opinion?
  • How have you found the course so far – what are the teaching / facilities / support / field trips like?
  • Are some halls of residence better or worse than others?
  • What’s the town / city like?

Questions to ask about societies and things on campus

A big part of the university experience is the activities you'll get involved with outside the classroom – what's on offer here that will develop your employability skills, contribute to uni life or the wider community or extend your social network?

It's also good to get a feel for other day-to-day facilities available nearby – such as libraries, academic support, language centre, shops, banks, sport, cultural, creative, religious, recreational and entertainment facilities or whatever else you need. How close are these to where you'll be living?

Questions to ask about your everyday costs

This is another good area to ask current students already managing their finances about.

  • How do the costs actually break down? How much money will you need to survive?
  • To what extent will you need / be able to find part-time work?
  • What bursaries, scholarships or fee waivers are there and how do you apply?
  • How do placements or a year abroad or a year in industry affect your costs or tuition fees?
  • What's on offer in terms of cheap student deals / nights out / places to eat?