A few weeks ago, I was working as a Student Ambassador for the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary’s Undergraduate Open Day. I really enjoy working at Open Days because it is great to meet so many prospective students and talk to them about university, student life, and about studying English. My job is especially easy because I genuinely love my course so I could talk about it for hours!
Open Days provide prospective students with the opportunity to find out more about the course that they want to study, visit the university campus, and meet current students and staff. I think going to Open Days are invaluable when deciding your university options. There are many great higher education institutions in the UK, but you need to make sure you pick the one which is right for you. Attending Open Days makes it so much easier to narrow down your choices. This was certainly the case for me. I went to a lot of Open Days across the country during Sixth Form, but it was only after I came to visit QM that I felt certain. I don’t really know how to describe it – it was a gut feeling. I think all universities have a certain set of preconceptions attached to them so it’s always best to go and investigate for yourself. Here are my top three reasons why I would recommend you go to Open Days:
1. Location, Location, Location
You are going to spend three – for certain courses more than three – years of your life at university. It is vital that your university is located somewhere that you would actually like spending so much of your time. I wanted to go to a campus-based university. A campus-based university is where the teaching facilities and the student accommodation are very close to each other. I think this is great because it makes students really feel like part of the university and student community. But at the same time, I wanted to study in London because, for me, it is the best place to be a student. There are so many different opportunities and so much to do, you would never get bored! Queen Mary is the perfect blend of the two. You may have a completely different outlook and want to get away from London as soon as possible or never want to step in it in the first place! I would recommend that you have a look around not just the university campus but also explore the surrounding areas to make sure it’s the most suitable place for you.
2. The Course
This is, possibly, the most important factor when choosing your university. If you hate your degree, it would be very difficult to enjoy university. You need a reason to get up for the 9am lectures – well for me, the earliest is 12 o’clock but still! Lots of universities will provide similar course content. For example, I highly doubt there are any undergraduate English courses in the UK which doesn’t teach Shakespeare at some point within the degree. However, each university will have a different approach to teaching similar content. This is why I think it’s very useful to attend subject talks to find out more about the structure and style of the course. Talk to the academic staff and the current students about the university’s approach to your subject and think if it’s something you would enjoy. Find out about the assessment outlines: is it exam-based? Or is it heavy on coursework? Or is it a mixture of both? I would suggest that you play to your strengths and pick a course where you can thrive academically. Also, most universities will run workshops and taster sessions. I would recommend going to these because they provide a flavour of what it is like to study at an undergraduate level.
3. The students
I think the best way find out more about a university is to talk to its students. Find out about their experience of the course: what aspects do they enjoy? Is there anything they find particularly challenging? How do they find the workload? Ask them about the effectiveness of the pastoral and academic support system that the university has in place. What made them want to choose this university? You might also want to know about their opinion on the local area and student accommodations.
I am including two links for the date and time of future open days below. I really hope you go to as many of them as possible to find the university that’s perfect for you!
Queen Mary University of London Undergraduate Open Days: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/openday/
Upcoming Open Days for other universities: https://www.ucas.com/events/exploring-university/find-open-day