If you’re in year 12, this is the year that you start making some exciting decisions. Do I want to go to University is a big one! But if you decide the answer to this question is “yes”, then the next big question is where?
First stop are uni websites and prospectuses, which will give you information about the uni, the course and the grade requirements. Once you have narrowed the choice down a bit by selecting a subject or a couple of subjects your interested in, grade requirements that you think are reasonable for you, and maybe thought about general areas you would like to live in the country, you will probably have a list of a few potential places.
Next up are the open days! These are a great way to get a proper feel for the place and whether you could see yourself studying and living there for three or more years. They are also a perfect opportunity to talk to the lecturers who would be teaching you and the current students already studying. Open days are also a great chance to find out more about what uni life is like if you aren’t 100% sure it’s the right option for you.
I just wanted to share my 5 top tips for what to look for on an open day:
- Campus or city based – Some unis have a contained campus, which means all or most of the uni buildings are in one place and this often means there is a great community feel. Other places may have their buildings spread out around the city, this means that you may feel more connected to the outside world and have a bigger variety of settings. Leicester is a campus uni, and I really like that. It means that my friends who study other courses are close enough during the day to meet up for lunch or a coffee. It also means that I’m always close to the library, the SU and student support services. Some people prefer city based unis, the choice is really up to you but think carefully about what will make you feel more at home.
- The course and facilities – at open days you will be bombarded by lots of ‘student life’ information, but don’t forget the main reason you are going to be paying over £9000 a year is to study a degree. So it’s really important to find out if the course is right for you. Unlike at school courses can vary massively between different unis, so make sure you pick the ones that will let you study the bits that really interest you. Also make sure that the facilities available for your course are good, for example when I was looking at unis for Biology I really wanted to see the teaching labs and ask about how many students there were for each demonstrator.
- Accommodation – If you are going to be living away from home making sure there is accommodation you are happy with is really important. Look at more than one option, think about prices, number of people to a flat/house, whether you want catered or self catered, en-suite or shared bathrooms. Always remember you may not get your first choice of accommodation so make sure there’s a couple you would be happy with. Finally check how the allocation system works for the accommodation application and when this opens.
- The SU – the student’s union will be a big part of your uni experience. This is where a lot of the social spaces might be, but more than that it’s through the SU that sports teams and societies are run. For example, if you know you’ll only be happy if you can play hockey, check they have a hockey team. (Also have a look at the sports facilities and gym). At Leicester our student nights out on a Wednesday and Friday are in the O2 academy in the SU building and it’s really good having a club on campus, it’s great fun, everyone’s a student and it’s a safe night out.
- The library – this may sound boring but seriously you will need to spend a lot of time in the library during your degree so make sure it’s big enough. Also check it has good IT facilities and subscribes to journals/ stocks books for your course. Ask if it is open 24 hrs a day during term time, does it have silent areas and group study rooms, and consider if you would be happy studying in that building?
I hope this has given you some starting points to think about on an open day, but always think about what’s important to you and don’t be afraid to ask current students and staff. Look at the way they answer, not just what they say but are they enthusiastic and excited about the university?
Good luck in your search, remember there’s no such thing as a stupid question with a decision this big!