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Open days and UCAS days

Chemistry student Catherine Lawrence from Nottingham University shares her top tips for getting the most out of university open days.

Before applying for your degree course, it is worth visiting a few universities to get a general idea of what to expect and what sort of institution will suit you. The location can be just as important as how good the university is for your desired subject. You may decide you want to be near home, prefer campus living to city campuses or the collegiate system.

Open days are listed on university websites, and there are sometimes subject specific open days. If you can’t make an open day, do get in contact with the department you wish to visit by phone or email, as most are happy to arrange private visits.

What matters to you?

There are common questions to ask at each university that don’t relate to the course at all, but can have an impact on whether you will be happy at university.

You should ask about living accommodation, not only about halls of residence for the first year, but options for living out of university owned accommodation, and whether you will need to do a lot of walking, cycling or driving. Decide what is important to you – computing, sporting, social and library facilities, internet availability, catered accommodation or self-catered flats, shops, study support and so on.

Make the most of a campus tour

During the open day, you will get a tour of the department and the area around it, which may be on foot or on a bus depending on the size and location of the university, with parents getting a separate tour. These are good times to ask questions to staff and current students who can give you information that won’t be in prospectuses or on university websites!

Be confident in your interview

After you have decided which universities you want to apply for and have sent off your UCAS form, you may get an offer straight away, but  in some cases you might be asked for an interview.

Interviews can be nerve racking, but don’t forget that they need students as much as you need the place so they aren’t out to trick you!

You will probably get asked about what you have been studying recently – don’t mention something you have just started and don’t understand yet, stick to something you will be confident with – or something you find interesting. It is a good idea to read around to find something you won’t have been taught – the interviewer will be impressed you’re making the effort to learn outside of lessons as this is a key skill needed at university.

Questions will also be asked to which you probably won’t know the answer – these are to see how you cope with an unseen problem, and even if it’s completely wrong, to see whether you can come up with a logical answer.

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