Open days: five things you must do before you leave
Open days can be a bit hectic, but there are a few things you should make a note to do, regardless of the university's tight schedule of activities...
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1. Take picsOk, you've seen the glossy pictures of picturesque buildings in the official prospectus where there's not a cloud in sight; but there's a lot more to see, as you'll discover at an open day. As you walk around, don't be afraid to take pictures or even video on your phone.
This will help jog your memory when you're back home and reflecting on what you saw, especially if you're attending several open days in a short space of time – things can blur together. These are long days and you may not notice every detail as you wander round.
Your phone battery might run out pretty quickly if you're taking pictures, using maps to find the university (and probably browsing Instagram during lulls in the day). Take a break from Instagram and save your battery, or take a portable charger with you to recharge.
2. Go on your own private tourWhile the university will have much of your day planned, sneak away and see some of the campus yourself. This way, you're more likely to get a better all-round picture of the uni, including those parts the university may want to steer you away from.
We're not implying that a university keeps students locked in the basement or anything. However the official tour is likely to show you the very best facilities and accommodation on offer, which might not be representative of the actual student experience.
3. Ask yourself: ‘Would I be happy here?’Take a moment during the day to stop, look around and ask yourself this question. Take in your surroundings and try to picture yourself as a student here.
Remember, this is where you'll be living, studying and socialising for the next few years, so it has to feel like it's somewhere you're going to want to really do this.
4. Talk to 'other' studentsIf you can, try to talk to students around campus who aren’t necessarily taking you on your tour or actively helping out that day.
Students should recognise that you're a visitor and be open to answering any questions – they'll remember being in your shoes at one time.
While they probably won't reveal anything too shocking, they will provide a somewhat alternative take on the university compared to what the official helpers and guides will – the latter will have probably led the same tours several times and may be stuck in a pattern of reciting similar points.
5. Visit the local areaDepending on the day's schedule and where the campus is located, you may or may not get a chance to see the local area during the day itself.
If you can, push back your journey home by a few hours so you can grab a bite to eat in the city or town centre and wander round. This way you'll get to see what else the place has to offer should you choose to study there – after all, you won't be spending the entire time on university grounds and will most likely live off-campus after your first year.
Try and get a sense of things like how costly it might be to live there, what the transport links are like as well as what else is happening, from shopping or sport to the local culture and community.
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