I need Top Tips for University Open Days

(36 Posts)
glitterbiscuits Mon 04-Jun-18 11:27:18

We are about to spend the next few Saturdays at Uni Open Days.
Can anyone who has done this before offer any words of wisdom please?
Are there things that make one University better than another? What things would put you off? What should we be on the lookout for? I get the impression that it can be a bit of a students market nowadays with Unis being more keen to have bums on seats than ever before.

DS is just looking at Russell Group where his course is ranked highly. It’s all about the label! I’m trying to get more of a rounded view.

OP’s posts: |
shockthemonkey Mon 04-Jun-18 14:51:25

Great that you're doing this. The Open Days will be organised so as to guide you with your deliberations.

Here is a list of questions that you might consider picking from... there are too many for you to ask them all, so just pick according to what's most important to you:

Questions for teaching staff and admin

•How many hours a week will I be in timetabled teaching?
•How much flexibility is there?
•What assessment methods are used?
•What’s the split between lectures, tutorials and self-directed study?
•What size are tutorial groups?
•What deadlines will I have to meet?
•Ask any question about the facilities
•What opportunities are there for you to broaden and deepen my understanding of the subject?
•Are placements or study abroad on offer, where are they, how are they organised, are they paid, how do they affect tuition fees?
•What are the pros and cons of taking a joint or combined course?

Qns relating to career prospects

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

Questions about the accommodation

You may be shown around a “typical” halls of residence, although you will be likely to tour the best on offer. It's a great time to do some fact-finding.
•Is a place in halls guaranteed? What accommodation is available off-campus?
•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 I have to travel to get into uni and around town? Can I bring a car?
•What are the options if I don't get into halls?

About societies and campus activities

•What's on offer here that will provide opportunities for me to develop my employability skills? Are there any connections with local employers?
•Are there any jobs on campus available for students?
•Are there any volunteering opportunities?
•What academic support is available?
•What sports and societies are available?

About everyday costs

This would be useful to discuss with current students who are already managing their finances.
•How do the costs actually break down? How much money will I need to survive?
•To what extent will I need/be able to find part-time work?
•How do placements or a year abroad or a year in the industry affect my costs or tuition fees?
•What's on offer in terms of cheap student deals/nights out / places to eat?

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?

Grasslands Mon 04-Jun-18 14:54:52

Wow Sock I don’t think you missed a single thing!

frasier Mon 04-Jun-18 14:59:22

Compare London costs with other places. I know a couple of students who chose not to study in London purely because of the cost.

shockthemonkey Mon 04-Jun-18 15:02:21

Grasslands :-)

... maybe leave out the question about French students' prospects post graduation!

shockthemonkey Mon 04-Jun-18 15:05:54

yes yes re London costs. It is crippling. Especially year 2 if you cannot get a place in halls. The private student accommodations are very expensive yet hardly extravagant in terms of the services they offer.

Grasslands Mon 04-Jun-18 15:11:55

I always stuck to basics like halls, food plans, laundry facilities, nearest grocer, banking options, and passwords.
Yup my trio gave me full access to their online grades.


Grasias Mon 04-Jun-18 15:17:05

Shock pretty much has it covered there!
If the courses are similar in similarly ranked unis the the location may become more important. Do they want big city or campus uni? That one narrowed it down for my DC.

Also there is a second bite at the cherry.
If you narrow it down to your five choices in the summer visits you will be invited back for an "offer day". This was in my DC experience much more useful.

Usually department specific and so less crowded and more focussed.

You have applied and been made an offer so they know you are really interested.

Academic staff more engaged.

This is the time to scrutinise the course details and compare.

A genuine prospect of living there for three years casts a new light on a place.

Jael003 Mon 04-Jun-18 15:35:34

Thanks for the advice from me too. We've got the next 4 weekends booked for open days too. Although none are Russell Group as my dd is looking at a creative subject that's not offered at those.

glitterbiscuits Mon 04-Jun-18 16:05:12

Shockthemonkey thanks so much. Are you free for the next few weekends? I’ll buy you lunch wink

OP’s posts: |
glitterbiscuits Mon 04-Jun-18 16:08:24

What would you think the pros and cons of Campus versus town would be?

We live rurally so DS may like town for a change.
I’m gently steering him away from London because of the additional costs. We won’t be in a financial position to help much.

OP’s posts: |
brizzledrizzle Mon 04-Jun-18 16:11:23

Shock you've just put me to shame, when we went on the open days it was just about if DD thought she could live there. She saved all the rest for the offer holder days!

shockthemonkey Mon 04-Jun-18 16:18:48

Biscuits, I'm in France but happy to talk on phone if you want to pm me for my number!

Drizzle it does come down to that though! So you did fine ;-)

I prefer the idea of campus to town, but both I have one DS in London (ouch) and one at a town (but collegiate) university.

Ocies Mon 04-Jun-18 16:18:57

Pros and cons of campus versus town are really based on travelling times between accommodation and lectures/library etc as well as other university facilities (sports facilities, SU facilities). So find out locations of various halls of residence and where they are in relation to where teaching of the course takes place.

Grasias Mon 04-Jun-18 17:20:17

We live rurally and I had anticipated that DC would go for city bright lights. In fact they both went for campus.
They didn't look at London because of the cost.
DC2 in particular liked the green feel of places like Warwick, Nottingham and York.
He thought he would like Sheffield but crossing 4 lanes of busy traffic between university buildings was a turn off and he hated the greyness of Manchester on first sight. he did quite like Newcastle and Edinburgh but both of those are quite self contained within the city.

Another thing to think of is distance from home. Of course if the best course is the one 300 miles away so be it, but it's worth a thought.
You will be doing a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. A big drop off at the start of the year, then home at Christmas and Easter and again in summer. Some trips can be done by train but not all. I'm picking DS2 up next week for the summer. That will be my 30th student pick up/ drop off so far..... and soft touch that I am I often bring him back for the odd weekend as well

KichenDancefloor Mon 04-Jun-18 17:21:44

I work in HE.

If you do not get crystal clear answers to some of the (excellent) list of questions it is not the staff being difficult.

Universities are paranoid about mis-selling and being sued, so will only tell you what will definitely happen for your child and be vague about the rest.

So 'how many teaching hours?'
May have the answer 'our current students have x hours contact time but we are constantly re-evaluating the curriculum.' All the caveats annoy us as much as they do our visitors!

For straight answers, ask the students out of earshot of staff. They are usually well briefed but not as scripted as we have to be.

BubblesBuddy Mon 04-Jun-18 18:25:01

If you get time on an ultra busy open day to ask all those questions and make comparison notes at all of them, then you are way better than we were! No chance for most of those. Lots didn’t matter to DDs anyway, but staff will not want anyone monopolising questions to that extent! Pick out the deal breakers!

City Vs Campus is about way more than travel! In a city University there is much more “life” on your doorstep. You mix more with the local people. Halls and the university can be in the city and close to each other. So travel can be very convenient. A short walk. Similar to a campus. 2nd year is often more convenient in a city as you are not travelling to the campus from a rented house.

The main difference is that other things are handy if you want them: choice of entertainment, station, shops, choice coffee shops and supermarket and museums and galleries etc. (Clubs and pubs!)

Skiiltan Mon 04-Jun-18 21:03:46

OP - DS is just looking at Russell Group where his course is ranked highly.

I'm not sure what you mean by "ranked". There are no official rankings for courses: just the very dodgy league tables produced to sell newspapers. There has been a pilot of a subject-level "teaching excellence and student outcomes framework" (TEaSOF) this year but I don't think the results will be published as only a limited number of institutions participated. Your son needs to be researching the content of the course and trying to find out who actually delivers the teaching. At open days, try as hard as possible to talk to current students. As KitchenDancefloor said, universities are terrified of the Competition & Markets Authority and staff will be reluctant to tell you anything about later years of the course, access to facilities, etc. in case it changes before your son reaches the relevant stage and the helpful lawyer in your family sues the university's arse off.

glitterbiscuits Mon 04-Jun-18 21:38:07

Skilltan - I did say he was all about the labels!
At this moment he would rather do a worse course at a big name Uni.

I’m hoping some exposure to Open Days and actually starting the UCAS process will wake him up a bit.
He’s the same with clothes. I used to offer to write Super-dry in Sharpie on T-shirts from Asda.

OP’s posts: |
Skiiltan Mon 04-Jun-18 21:49:16

@glitterbiscuits - Sorry, I just get the red mist when people refer to rankings.

It might be worth pointing out to him the top-quality research coming out of places like Bath and Leicester, if that's the kind of thing that sways him, or the high-quality industrial placements provided by somewhere like Surrey (and their effect on employability). What broad subject area is he looking at?

glitterbiscuits Mon 04-Jun-18 21:51:55

Probably Geography or similar. He has no grand plan at the moment so is going with a subject that interests him.

OP’s posts: |
KichenDancefloor Mon 04-Jun-18 23:05:27

@Skiiltan I'm guessing you work in HE too?

Don't get me started on how the Russell Group is self-selected.

shockthemonkey Tue 05-Jun-18 07:33:39

Bubbles, I don't think Biscuits was intending to ask all those questions, she was going to pick the ones most important to her (as suggested in my pp).

Also, many of those questions are not aimed at teaching staff, and of those that are, you choose according to your priorities and even then, you don't have to aim all your staff questions at the same member of staff during a presentation -- you can try to catch different staff members between presentations for instance.

You pick your questions, you pick your interlocutor, you pick your moments. Most students and parents do this quite naturally.

Hmm, Kitchen, I feel for the staff put on the spot like that. Yet students and parents are often quite happy with vague answers riddled with caveats, as they appreciate the difficulty of being precise.

The main thing is being there, getting a feel for the place and meeting the people.

GinAndATinHat Tue 05-Jun-18 07:45:00

Place marking so I can catch up later! We’re looking into open days at the moment - DS works on Saturdays which makes it very tricky unfortunately!

Needmoresleep Tue 05-Jun-18 10:19:56

Shock's list is a good starting point. I cant see what the problem with it is. You simply cross off the ones which don't matter to you, and rely on that bloke on the blazer with the loud voice, who seems to go to every open day, to ask about whether the University is biased against private schools and related questions.

Not on Shocks' list but one which looms large in the minds of some 17 year old's are things like the clubbing scene etc. They will grow up, and many change a lot in that final school year, and what they want at 17 may be very different to what they want at 20. Getting them to think broadly about course and university is important, even if they wont get to acutally ask all their questions.

Do not dismiss London that quickly, if the city or a specific course appeals. There are hidden costs elsewhere like the cost of travelling to and from (coach from London to most places can be cheap) the additonal cost of food if your nearest supermarket is 25 minutes walk away (and if it is expect food stealing to be rife as other students can't be bothered), and unexpected one for us is cars. There is no way a London student has a car. You walk cycle or bus it everywhere. After a year of having to get up at 5.30am to reach a remote placement DD is learning to drive. Though in theory there are lift sharing schemes, in practice she will need a car sooner of later. She tells me that she will be far from alone, and many are students who don't have placements, who bring cars to University. I hear similar about Warwick. Trying to get on a bus from Leamington in order to arrive for 9.00am lectures became too much of a struggle. At which point costs elsewhere start looking like London. With London, obviously having a vast array of free stuff, and quite a distinct student London with accessible and affordable stuff happening at the different Universities.

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