Navigating the world of university can be confusing, and as a year 13 student it’s pretty daunting. Should you go to university? What course should you pick? Where in the country should you go? Why would you pick one university over another? In my opinion, one way of determining whether or not uni is for you is to visit a few that you might be interested in and see what you think. University open days are free to attend, and you can get a feel for the campus and maybe even halls of residence to really get an idea of what you could be doing come next September. You can also speak to current students and tutors to hopefully find out a bit about a potential course. If it feels wrong and you can’t picture yourself there at all then it might just be the university, but it might just be that you aren’t ready for uni yet or that uni just isn’t for you. All of these things are absolutely fine, but I think if you’re unsure about whether or not you should go to uni, it’s worth a look.
I would suggest going to open days as soon as possible. Yes, your UCAS deadline is next year and you can go and visit universities after you’ve applied for them, but if you discover you don’t like your first choice as much as you thought you did, or you’re still not sure you’re making the right decision, it definitely doesn’t hurt to start looking now.
What should you be looking for at an open day?
1. Do you like the campus? Campuses vary in size across universities, and depending on whether you want a small community feel or you don’t mind a bigger ‘lost-in-the-crowd’ feeling then that can help decide which uni you might like to go to.
2. Can you talk to current students? I think it’s really useful to talk to current students at the uni (so much so that I actually work open days at my uni to talk to perspective students) as it really helps you get to know what you can expect from your university experience in terms of things like social life which you probably won’t find out about on the uni website!
3. Can you see halls of residence? This may or may not be possible at all universities, and may not be relevant depending on your living situation, but if you are thinking of halls and you can see them, it might be worth a quick look. I didn’t choose my uni solely based on halls and I probably wouldn’t advise it, but if you really hate the accommodation then you’ll know to consider looking elsewhere if you apply.
4. Do you like the sound of your course? Reading about the course on the uni website or UCAS can only tell you so much. You’ll usually get a talk from a tutor on your course at an open day, and if it doesn’t sound like what you signed up for then don’t be scared to investigate other courses at the same uni, or rule it out completely.
5. Do you like the area? My two favourite universities were Glamorgan (now University of South Wales) and my actual uni, and I really liked both Cardiff and London as places to live. It’s worth thinking about where you’d like to go to uni in relation to where you already live as staying close to home might be important to you, but make sure you do like the area you’re moving to as well.
There’s other things to consider too depending on what matters to you, but I would really suggest visiting a couple of universities to get a feel for what you might be experiencing next September. If you have any questions regarding open days or uni in general, please comment or tweet me @lzythoughts!