Open days - are they full of ghastly pushy parents?(55 Posts)
The Open Day notifications are coming through, and after reading various threads on MN and newspaper articles, I am concerned that going to them will be a stressful rather than an illuminating experience.
Ds is quite an anxious individual, and gets cast down and loses confidence in the face of braggy elbowy people. He says The Student Room makes him feel sick, so if you add in their parents too, I'm worried that going to an Open Day will be an all-round dreadful day out and only serve to depress the both of us.
Parents go to Open Days now?! In my day they dropped you off as far away as possible and came back 6 hours later, hoping you'd done something vaguely approaching "research" and not just headed to the nearest pub. But maybe things have progressed.
I went to a couple and they can get a bit claustrophobic and at times when it's predominantly the parents asking most of the questions rather than their dc's. Don't know wether that's because dc's are shy and a bit overwhelmed. Or its parents being over invested. If I wasn't the taxi driver ferrying DD I wouldn't bother attending it can be Zzz. Your better off going sightseeing, shopping or to the coffee shop.
Of course parents go to open days. I am not ghastly or pushy. My Dc asked me to come along as another pair of eyes and so that they had someone to discuss things with on the way home. I didn't ask any questions or anything like that - that was my DC's job. there were some parents there who did seem horrendous - making their kids look at the degree subjects they wanted them to do. but overall most of us parents just trailled round behind the DC's nodding and smiling, paying for the lunch and coffee breaks etc.
I actually found the open days incredibly uplifting and interesting. the current students showing you around were all keen enthusiastic and knowledgeable. real ambassadors for their unis. people didn't even discuss grades or anything like that. the parent chit chat was of the "how far have you come" variety, nothing more detailed.
my dc took me back to the offer holders days again their choice not mine. I found it a really interesting and enjoyable day.
I loved going to open days with my DC but I only went when they wanted me to. It's a great opportunity to chat and do something interesting together where you can focus on them. I didn't go into any of the talks or anything thing like that though.
There were a few occasions when I had some brilliant chats with lecturers or current students when I was hanging around waiting for my DC to finish subject talks.
My DC made up their own minds but they liked to have my opinion too.
It depends on the DC though. One of my DC does medicine and I didn't go to any of his open days as they were quite structured and he was only interested in the course rather than the bigger picture iyswim. I went with him to his interviews partly to keep him company and partly to be in charge of transportation. It was good for him to have a mum debrief before and after his interviews.
There are lots of amazing confident kids who organize everything without any parental help but in my experience a lot of kids benefit from a bit of practical support.
Having said all that I think most Open Days are organized so that the DC can attend on their own if that's what they prefer.
Not at all - different prospective students and parents will rarely speak to each other on an open day - the vast majority of communication is done between staff / current students and prospective students / parents. If there was any conversation between you and other families, then it's likely to be smalltalk (nice weather, delays on the M4 etc. etc.), not 'little Johnny is predicted A*A*A*A*' - which is in contrast to The Student Room, where anonymity has a tendency to produce bragging, and the whole premise of the site makes it more likely to attract high achievers who are invested in their education. The parents are invariably mindful of the fact that being braggy elbowy sorts is likely to embarrass their offspring, so they don't act as they might online either.
I really would strongly recommend attending some open days, on two grounds
1) you'd never spend that much money or three years of your life on a property / car / anything without viewing it first, so to do that with university is frankly madness
2) I really don't think your fears about open days will come to pass - and if it really is all as bad as your son fears (highly unlikely), then you don't have to go to any more.
I only went to one Open Day with DD (Bath). We weren't terribly invested in it, in that DD was already fairly sure that she didn't want to study in the UK, but we thought it would be a useful experience for comparison purposes! She subsequently went to a couple more by herself.
I genuinely didn't come across any pushy parents, and in the lecture DD and I attended, only the potential students asked questions, not parents. I di see some parents talking to uni staff in the labs, but they were with their DC so it would probably have been rude not to say anything!
I've been to some with both of mine and on the whole found them very positive experiences. I wouldn't say that they were full of pushy parents at all. The better organised ones separated the parents from the potential students for a period, took us parents off for a talk about pastoral support, finance etc whilst the DC had the opportunity to chat individually to lecturers or attend workshops.
At the end of the day the DC have to make their own decisions and did but both wanted our opinions.
Oh, God. Dd1 was at her first Open Day today, and dh just dropped her off and went to explore the local
pubs area. It didn't occur to us that he could/should go in with her. I'll ask her how many other parents attended when she gets home.
On the couple I went to with DS1 a couple of years back I'd say predominantly "no" in answer to the thread title.
tbh I spent most of the day drinking coffee and looking round the various halls of residence, as much to see how halls had changed compared with my days, long, long ago at uni. And also to be outraged by the accommodation costs and to wonder quite how they regularly got away with describing a small closet as a full en-suite
Lectures, subject talks, see the faculty etc clearly more of interest to DS1 rather than me.
Durham certainly laid on a very good open day. DH dropped myself and DS1 off first thing and took the two other DCs off to Beamish for the day, before meeting us towards the end of the day at the hall / college by the park & ride.
I went to Offer Holder days with DS1, he went to the Open Days on his own or with friends.
When we did a tour of the accommodation one DM asked the student showing us round ' and where do the privately educated students live?'.
The other students and parents bonded with
Ha ha. Be warned. Some Uni's put lectures on for parents too. DD did one visit last year during which I was looking forward to drinking coffee and writing smash cards, but oh no. They put on a finance lecture (which tbf was helpful) and a tour just for parents.
How does your DS get on with new people of his own age? DD generally found other students were in the same boat as her and said most people were friendly.
That's encouraging. Of course ds needs to see some places, but he says he'd be more comfortable if "just us two" went for a mooch round. That is of course lovely but roaming round the town/campus doesn't tell you much about the course.
"where do the privately educated students live?" That's just the sort of thing that's guaranteed to put ds off. Last year he ran a mile from a college that boasted of the famous annual food fight. He is also very much against the local university after he saw the freshers cavorting around and didn't think much of the students. The girls all looked a bit TOWIE and he was imagining that they might all be more bluestockingy. I said I'm sure the more earnest ones were not doing piggy back rides outside the Indian takeaway.
Rhoda, it all depends. Some observations etc.
1. My DC refused to read student room. I did. It is useful when you are waiting a long time, to monitor when offers are being given out. If nothing else to reassure DC that they are far from the only ones in the same boat. But many who post are boastful and braggy. I disliked one, who seemed to be applying for the same places as DD, so much that I looked at his posting history to discover he was a fake and doing the same across a load of schools. Your DS is right to stay away.
2. Uniiversities vary. For the big open days like Warwick there will be so much on that you can split up to cover more ground. (I did study abroad and accomodation.) Subject lectures are often student only anyway. For the big introduction talks you can play parent bingo. The man in the tweed jacket who asks about discrimination against private school applicants etc. DD went to one (Barts/Royal London) where she felt she was the only one without parents, the talk seemed to be directed towards parents, and there seemed to be no questions from students or description of student life other than academics. It was as if they assumed parents alone would be making decisions on whether their DC should study medicine and where they should apply. Her academic profile matched their selection criteria, but she refused to apply as she sees subject and University choice very much her domaine.
3. It is very useful to go. I did not go to the London ones as this is DCs home city, but did go to others. (For Warwick DS only booked me into the car park..). It was fun. As well as the odd open day DS and I had a bit of a road trip during the Y12 summer half term where we did some self-guided tours and we went to the campus nearest Granny etc. It was nice to have some time with him before he left home. It was also very useful to have a good sense of what he liked/disliked and why. Many will face some tough decisions: whether to take another option or a gap year if rejected by your first choice; what to do if you don't get the grades, etc. As a parent you are in a better position to offer advice if you have seen their response during a visit or at an open day.
4. I found it really interesting, not least because I had never previously visited a campus. And like student room, the briefings on the application process are useful if your DC end up in a "gathered field".
I've been to a few open days now, first with ds and now with dd. I tend to be a silent observer during the day but the chat on the way home has invariably been interesting for the different things we have noticed/heard/saw. Both have commented that it was helpful to have another pair of eyes and ears. Can't say I took a great deal of notice of the other parents.
Bath was where we were in a 2 hour jam on the road off the M4 every car headed to the uni with parents and child. . So yes lots of parents go. Maybe because it was a Science course there were a lot of Fathers who felt the need to make their presence felt in the session with the Professor and air their knowledge from last weeks New Scientist. When it came to offers day I had a much nicer time in the Roman Baths and Assembly room
My favourite though was a taster lecture by a famous feminist academic. An entire family stomped in, and I mean entire, mum, dad, little brother and grandma and grandpa, it was like the Larkins, I expected the sandwiches to come out. After twenty minutes on the "other", women and ethnic minorities, Dad huffed loudly and made them all get up and they left.
Like most I just went along to be taxi driver and an extra pair of eyes and ears, and most parents are just politely interested. I did speak up once but in my defence I detected a hint that a new interdisciplinary course didn't quite have every department on board and when I pressed the issue the answer decided my DD against it, so I don't feel it was too pushy .
I am glad I went as I was then able to support them better in making the important decisions.
I've only ever been to one official open day, seven years ago, where the parents were sensibly corralled into one lecture room away from their kids. The talk was dominated by one excessively ghastly parent who started her soliloquy by announcing that her husband was a Very Well Known Head Teacher At A Very Well Known Independent School (she then told us all how very clever her DD was etc etc).
I'm pretty sure that committed girls who are devoted to their subject of academic study are also allowed to have a few beers and a piggy back race once they've submitted their theses on pre-Renaissance Dutch sculpture. As long as you don't do it every single night until 4am the whole point of university is that you can be a swot and have fun. The same girls might be discussing Heidegger the next night, but since they'd be sitting quietly in each other's rooms, the casual visitor wouldn't catch them at it.
That was my experience too Molio. Some universities do bring out the worst in people and their offspring. Exeter was full of pushy parents who had to be ejected from the "student" only talks! Obviously I only visitied Exeter on one accosation and other days may have been totally different from the bunfight we experienced. It appears to be a very sought-after university by the heavily invested parent. Mostly we let our DD's do the talking and planning their days. I say "we". Actually "me" is more accurate. I think another pair of eyes and ears is useful but my DDs generally knew what they wanted and just needed to confirm their ideas for themselves.
On another thread I have just been roasted for saying Brunel is different from Bristol. I do hope the TOWIE comment is not seen as snobbish, Rhoda! Also, if students at private schools do not know where the "like us" students live, they have poor networking skills!
YesThisisMe, the point though is that prospective students are a varied lot. The idea that being drunk outside an Indian takeaway at 4.00am is "fun", would be pretty alien to DS. The problem with open days whether at school or University is that initially the loud stand out and it can take a while for the quieter ones to find their place/tribe. And these quieter ones may be seeking reassurance that it is OK to think that Freshers Week sounds like hell on earth, and that you are not dull because you have a range of interests which don't involve drinking.
C'mon now, don't exaggerate, you were not 'roasted' for saying Brunel is different to Bristol - everyone and his dog already knows that. In the context of the thread your comments that a different 'sort of person' goes to Bristol or Durham than to Keele or Brunel came across as questionable to me.
I'm not sure if you are joking with your 'private school' 'like us' comment or not so I best not say anything. 🤐😱
<<pretty sure my kids are in the like them and not the like us group >>
I have been on a few with two DC. Mostly they went alone on coach trips from school or by train.
Where I did go, I wandered off while they did the talks. I do think as a parent you are looking at different things altogether.
I found it very entertaining to match up the teenager with the parent(s). Never once did I notice behaviour from a parent that was unpleasant or pushy.
There are always offer days if they apply and get offers. I did go to two of these and I found with DS2 that he was much more focussed when there was a realistic prospect of him spending 4 years there and he wanted my opinion. These are smaller and subject based so not such crowds. They also put on separate talks for the parents covering accommodation and pastoral care.
Lots of parents, mostly not pushy or ghastly. The odd cringey question in a talk, although if you're feeling nice you can imagine that the child was feeling too shy to ask.
DD2 and I went on the train to Bristol for their open day - the train was packed with parent-child pairs, and (possibly because it came from London! ) there were a lot of loud, sloaney, "aren't we great" conversations going on. I knew dd had an autobiography in French with her, so I made her get it out and read it, as our contribution to the odd atmosphere .
Once we actually got to Bristol, it was fine, not even any parent questions in the subject talk
Funniest parent encounter was when we went to a post-offer day for dd1's oxbridge college - parents were specifically invited, although at a different time, and for completely different talks to the kids. Dh and I both went (weekend) and were on a tour around, with two other couples. The girl showing us round mentioned the laundry room and the system for paying, and one of the other mums asked, "and is there someone who shows the boys how to use the machines?"
(Funny follow-up to that story - I don't know who the boy in question was, but the other couple are parents of someone else on dd1's course, who thought until halfway through the term just gone, that the washing machines automatically added washing powder, and so hadn't been adding her own!)
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