Students’ advice to improve Open Days and ensure turnout

Open Days are a highly influential tool when it comes to university decision making. We found 92% of students found them helpful and according to UCAS, 85% of applicants said they helped students decide where to apply.

We asked users on The Student Room to share their thoughts on what makes a good Open Day, how universities could improve them and what mobilises them to turn up.

Be memorable and make a lasting impression

From balloons and doughnuts to puppies and lamas, universities are doing more than ever to wow potential applicants. But it’s not about splashing the cash, it’s about providing a unique experience that leaves a lasting impression.

One student took to The Student Room to tell us how impressed they were with their cinema Open Day experience:

“I’ve been to so many Open Days… The ones that stand out are the ones that were friendliest [example university], and where they gave away free popcorn while showing a short film about the Uni.”

FOMO – Fear of missing out

Fear of missing out aka FOMO is a powerful motivator. This emotional response has created a culture amongst millennials that mobilises them to take part in something to avoid the feeling of being left out.

Creating the right buzz at your Open Days and capitalising on this emotive trigger can be key for driving demand and ensuring your signed-up applicants turn up.

Why not get your creative arts students to organise a flash-mob, get a celebrity to talk about their university experience or finish the day off with a concert from your music students?

The right representatives

Open Days are about creating an opportunity to build an emotive connection between applicants, parents, lecturers and an institution. Having the right representatives available and linking up like-minded people can be a game changer, see how one conversation made a huge impact on one of our users:

“[University] had a senior admissions man who really took the time to talk to us in depth about unconditional offers and why they had taken the decision not to offer them to Year 13 pupils…

Even one single person can leave you with a good impression of a place and make you warm to the Uni.”

Think about how you can link up the right people on the day, so your ambassadors are having the valuable conversations that transform student perceptions. Review all your data touchpoints and try personalising their experiences in different ways. Subject choice is an obvious option, so think about how you can make applicants gain new connections by home location, society interests, or accommodation choice.

Reassuring applicant worries

Making the decisions to transition to university is a nerve-racking time for young people. Get them on your side by supporting them through their journey and you’ll, in turn, improve the chances of them showing up to your Open Days.

An Official Rep is an effective way to reach out to potential students. Start building connections early, reassuring them they have made the right choice to apply to you and they’re not on their own.

Here are some of the common worries we see students sharing on The Student Room:

Open Day nerves

“I’m really anxious about going to an open day, I’m planning to go to the next one at [University] which is a few months away and I’m really scared about getting lost and stuff. Can anyone tell me about their experiences? Is it easy to navigate the college?”

Financial barriers

At the moment my family have no money and I will be unable to attend any open days for universities which should be really helpful. Is there anywhere I can get a bursary or financial assistance to pay for transport?”

Don’t want to go alone

“Who’s going for the open day in July? None of my friends’ wish to study at [University] and I don’t want to go to the open day on my own.”

Alternatives to Open Days

“I’ve received an offer for pharmaceutical and cosmetic science and would really like to look around the department. However, I’m struggling to get time off work to attend the Saturday open days. Is there any other way I could look around?”

Make sure you’re the university that nurtures your applicant’s worries. Jump into the conversation and get them on your side by being by theirs.

Find out more about how to attract students to your Open Days with our pre-app marketing tool kit, a useful collection of resources to help you reach and engage students as they plan their next steps.