Going to university Open Days can be an overwhelming experience for students. For most, choosing a university is one of the biggest decisions they have ever had to make. According to a survey, 82% of students said open days changed the way they saw the university they applied to.
I’m a second year student studying Media Production at the University of Sussex and two years ago, I attended to my first ever Open Day. I was completely alone, lost and overwhelmed with information. Now a Course Ambassador, I help to ease the minds of students in this daunting position. Based on my experiences, I have compiled a list of fresh ideas which will reassure your applicants and in turn improve your Open Days.
Make it worth the money
Many prospective undergraduates spend a significant amount of money to travel to your Open Day, so make the day of value. Consider offering more interesting refreshments and easy lunch options like pizza or doughnuts, I particularly love the branded cupcakes you can get.
Contemplate offering useful freebies you don’t typically see elsewhere. Phone cases and pop sockets are a good example, you can easily add your branding as well as encouraging social proof amougst attendees. It leaves students feeling like they’ve gained something unique by coming to your Open Day, so think outside the box.
Another way students can make the most of their money is by turning the open day into a short break. Why not encourage more of this by providing tourist information of the free attractions they can visit whilst in the city. By turning my Open Day trip to Sussex into a mini-break, I had the opportunity to fall in love with Brighton as well as the university. The number one attraction for applicants is to be able to envision their student life in that new city, so for me absorbing the people, the place and the culture led to me making Sussex my firm choice!
Utilise social media
Searching online for YouTube videos was one thing I did when researching Open Day options. The official social media accounts for many universities seemed outdated and as someone interested in Media Production I noticed a lot of low-quality content which I found off-putting, for example many accommodation tour videos were poorly filmed. So ensure these are kept up to date, as this can be a turn off for a potential applicants before they’ve even attended your open day.
One user on The Student Room wrote ‘’If you can’t visit the universities you want to visit it may be worth visiting their websites. Many now show virtual tours and they offer virtual open days.’’
Social media channels are particularly useful for engaging with students that can’t attend an Open Day, such as international students or those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Use your current students to create a digital media team and run live accommodation tours allowing your audience to write questions too.
In my first year I started posting video content about my university experience as a fresher. I ran online Q&A sessions for other students interested in university and still encounter comments with unique questions that they have felt too shy to ask in person.
Another user asked: ‘’Any tips and tricks for open days? I’m quite shy when it comes to talking to people’’ with another responding saying – ‘’I can totally relate to the issue of struggling to communicate at something like an open day. I went to quite a few of them, and every single time I stood or sat in silence and just listened whilst more confident people asked the questions instead.’’
When using The Student Room I’ve seen lots of universities using the Official Rep tool to get directly involved in the conversation. It’s a great way of answering questions from those too shy to do so in person and allows you to be involved when those are discussing your university.
Location, location, location
The location of your university can have a huge impact on students’ decisions, and most want to know how convenient and cost-effective travel is, while parents want to know their children are safe. I’ve already mentioned how important it was for me when attending an Open Day but 62% of students also say learning more about the city would improve the open day experience. So, let visitors know what to expect from the city, transport links and nightlife in your area.
Open Day booths are a great way to provide parents and students with information leaflets about local bus routes, those nearby attractions and popular annual events.
41% of current students strongly ranked the process of going to university as the most anxious they have ever felt. This is mirrored on The Student Room where we see thousands of users turn to their peers for reassurance:
‘’This may be ridiculous but I’m nervous about the kings openday’’
‘’Becoming increasingly terrified about heading off to university; Is this normal?’’
As a current student myself, its clear mental health is becoming an area of increasing concern and is improving in lots of universities, but remember this could be a key reason why your applicants sign up but don’t turn up.
Make it explicit what support is available and where it’s accessible. I found including your wellbeing services in campus tours or providing information leaflets can go a long way. This is nerve-wracking new experience of moving away from home, why not get current students, like me, to share their stories of how they got through it? I find it really helps reassure our applicants and they can envision how they’ll tackle the transition and love student life!
Intern at The Student Room
If you would like more information on planning the perfect Open Day, our team would be happy to support you! Just drop us a line and we can discuss a winning solution to meet your pre-application objectives.