So the time has come for you to start thinking about your life after school. This can be daunting, but if you’re considering going to university or college, one of the best ways to put your mind at ease is to visit open days, see the place for yourself and get a chance to ask some questions.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your open day experience.
Go to talks about subjects you’re interested in studying
Maybe you know you want to study business. Maybe you’re torn between English and medicine. Going to talks held by lecturers is a great way to learn more about the specifics of what the course at this particular university or college offers. You’ll learn about the modules the course focuses on and find out if studying the subject is something you’ll be really interested in. Attending these lectures also gives you an opportunity to ask the relevant people questions – and if you’re worried about asking questions in front of a lecture hall full of people, don’t worry! Most lecturers are happy to hang around afterwards to speak to people one-on-one. They know this is a daunting time in your life, and everyone will be as helpful and welcoming as possible.
If you’re leaving home, visit accommodation
This will help you start to prepare physically – buying the pans, the cutlery, the duvet covers, the coat hangers – and emotionally: by seeing where you’re going to end up living, this gives you an opportunity to start to come to terms with leaving home and moving away from your family. At least if you know roughly what you’re going to, it’s not a complete shock. While you won’t be able to see your own future bedroom, seeing the potential flats (and working out which ones are in your budget) will help, because although you may feel totally excited and completely ready to ship off to university, it helps to be prepared for any homesickness that may come your way.
Like the last point, it just really helps to be prepared. There will be plenty of time to explore properly with your new flatmates or course mates once you’ve settled in and survived freshers flu (it’s a thing, believe me), but just wandering around campus – the buildings, the streets, the accommodation – will help you figure out if this is a place you can see yourself living in for the next four years. Check out the library, the sports facilities and the student union, to get a feel for the place; it’s not all about studying after all!
Do not be afraid to ask for help! Everyone – from the lecturers, to the student guides – is there to help you, and understand that you need information to help you make what is probably the biggest decision of your life so far. The guides taking you round campus and pointing you in the right direction were in your shoes once, and they know exactly what it’s like to be in your position, so are more than happy to help. Also, it is worth pointing out that they are all volunteers, so they really do want to be there to help you!
Waste your time
When at open days, it can be tempting to stray from the path, so to speak. I mean, deciding which university or college to go to is one of the first adult decisions you ever have to make, so it can be tempting, while mulling these decisions over, to make other adult decisions, like “I’m just going to kill the next hour shopping before the psychology talk”, or “the accommodation tour is in half an hour, I’ll just run and grab a coffee”, and before you know it, you’ve missed your lecture and your tour and you’ve wasted your day. It is important to remember that universities only hold two – sometimes only one – open days a year, and you can miss really good opportunities to learn and ask questions if you spend your time unwisely. Even if you have an hour to kill before a lecture, spend it picking up course brochures and reading them, or walking round campus. I promise you, you won’t kick yourself for spending all day getting to know the place, but you will if you miss out because you wasted your time.
Trust me, anything that you can do beforehand to make your day less stressful will be a big help. Bring a notepad and pen to jot down notes at talks. Make sure to print off a map of campus, or download the open day app – which lots of universities offer now – to help you navigate your way round as easily as possible. You can also follow the university on social media, to keep up to date with last-minute changes, and note down the times of any talks, tours or lectures you want to attend beforehand, which can be found on university websites. It is easy to become caught up in the stress of the day that other people are feeling, but if you come prepared, your day is more likely to go smoothly.
Like I’ve already said, everyone on campus is there to help and answer your questions. This can be an exhausting time in your life, with lots of tough decisions to make, and every student helper has had to make these decisions as well. It is easy to become overwhelmed at open days, with the realisation hitting you that actually, this time next year you could be here, living a completely different life to the one you live now. But don’t worry, everyone feels this way at some point and it is completely normal. This is the first big step that you take about deciding your future, so good luck and make the most of it!